Victor Hedman, who missed six games with a lower body injury, has six goals, 15 points in 28 games, which puts him well on the way to his best offensive season.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper hinted that defenseman Victor Hedman would be ready for tonight's game with the Predators. He made it official at the morning skate, and it was clear he was thrilled to have the 6-foot-6 Swede back in the lineup.
"Well, he's our best defenseman," Cooper said. "He plays on the power play. He plays penalty kill. He plays 25 minutes a night. He was playing exceptional for us."
Hedman, who missed six games with a lower body injury, has six goals, 15 points in 28 games, which puts him well on the way to his best offensive season. And he actually only plays and average 21:19. But it is the way Hedman has become more confident in the defensive zone that has made him so valuable.
As Cooper pointed out, Tampa Bay gave up an inordinate amount of odd-man rushes in Tuesday's 3-2 shootout victory over the Islanders, something the team had gotten a fairly good handle on during the season.
"We think we were digressing a little," Cooper said. "We addressed that this morning and, hopefully, Victor will help us a little bit in that regard."
For Hedman, who turned 23 on Wednesday, his first game back will be about recovering his timing. …Full Story
Looking to get bigger and stronger on the blue line, the Lightning on Wednesday signed defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote to a two-year, two-way contract. He is expected to join the team immediately.
"Part of our thinking was maybe getting a little bit bigger on the back end with a little more bite, and that's what he brings," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We still feel potentially we might be a little bit light back there. He's just a bigger body that plays the game really hard."
Cooper knows Cote well, having coached him with AHL Norfolk and last season at Syracuse. Cote, 6 feet 2, 212 pounds, has two goals, nine points and 35 penalty minutes in 19 games this season with the Crucnh.
"He's just a big, strong, stay-at-home defenseman who for the most part makes other teams' forwards pay the price when they come in front of our net," Cooper said. "He's been an unreal soldier for this organization the past few years."
Here is the announcement from the team:
The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote (COH-tay) to a two-year contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced. Cote has been recalled to Tampa Bay and will wear No. 60. …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Victor Hedman (lower body) will miss his sixth game tonight at the Islanders but moved well during the morning skate.
Good news for the Lightning as injured defenseman Victor Hedman might be ready to play Thursday at home against the Predators.
Hedman (lower body) will miss his sixth game tonight at the Islanders but moved well during the morning skate, his first full team practice since he was injured Dec. 5 versus Ottawa by a check into the boards.
After the skate, coach Jon Cooper said it was possible Hedman could play against the Predators. Hedman said it depends on how his body reacts to Tuesday's skate and Wednesday's expected practice.
"Obviously," Hedman said, "a big step forward."
How much has Tampa Bay missed Hedman? Consider he is second on the team with an average 21:19 of ice time, is a mainstay on the penalty kill and the power play and with six goals, 15 points in 28 games is on track for his best offensive season.
"He's a horse for us back there," Cooper said. "Of course we miss him But you can't complain. There can't be any excuses. We have to find a way." …Full Story
Lightning star Steven Stamkos skated with his teammates for the first time on Saturday before the morning skate at the Prudential Center. Stamkos did some stick-handling drills and passed pucks with captain Marty St. Louis and defenseman Victor Hedman.
Stamkos was on skates two other times earlier in the week, but this was the first time he was visible to reporters and engaged with teammates.
"Medical advances, I guess," joked Stamkos, who broke his right tibia Nov. 11 at Boston and had surgery shortly thereafter to put a titanium rod and screws in the bone. "I'm feeling good. Everything is on track. The four-week X-rays look good. I'm just starting to progress and make sure there are no setbacks, but I'm feeling really good."
That said, Stamkos reiterated he has no target date for a return. "I still wouldn't say it is," he said. "There is healing taking place in the bone but by no means is it close to being fully healed, so only time will tell. But we've definitely ramped up the rehab part of it, whether it was in the water treadmill, in the gym, on the ice."
DAMIAN CRISTODERO | Times
Steven Stamkos today in New Jersey skated for the first time since breaking his right leg Nov. 11 in Boston.
Lightning star center Steven Stamkos today in New Jersey skated for the first time since breaking his right leg Nov. 11 in Boston.Full Story
Richard Panik said he did not expect the two-game suspension.
On Wednesday, Lightning rookie Richard Panik said he explained to league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan what happened on Tuesday night when he knocked Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner into the side boards at the Verizon Center.
And he hoped for the best.
"I wanted to poke check the puck and I decided to hit him," Panik explained Thursday. "It was my decision and too bad it went that way."
Panik, who got a five-minute major boarding penalty on which the Capitals scored twice, said he did not expect the two-game suspension for the second-period hit in the 6-5 shootout loss. But he said twice he is glad Alzner is okay, and added about the suspension, "You have to accept it and go from there."
This is an interesting time for Panik. Not playing well he was in the lineup against the Capitals after two games as a healthy scratch. He even admitted he has lost some confidence.
"I'm just going to practice and focus on myself and do things right and get back to good habits and, hopefully, this is going to turn around," Panik said. …Full Story
Lightning rookie right wing Richard Panik was suspended two games by the league for his from-behind hit Tuesday on Capitals defensmean Karl Alzner.
Panik will forfeit $7,589.74, which will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
Alzner was not injured on the play with 4:29 left in the second period, and Panik was given a five-minute major penalty for boarding on which the Capitals scored twice.
But the NHL ruled Alzner was in a “vulnerable position” and “at a dangerous distance from the boards” when he was hit, causing “a violent collision with the boards.”
You can see the hit and the NHL's explanation of the suspension here.
Even Panik admitted Tuesday that it was a “bad penalty.”
“I should take a couple more strides and hit him clean and everything will be okay,” Panik said, and added, “Hopefully, it will never happen again.”Full Story
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has said he has skated perhaps two or three times since his retirement from the Red Wings. But Detroit announced Tuesday that Yzerman will play for the Wings in the Alumni Showdown against the Maple Leafs on Dec. 31 at Comerica Park.
Suiting up for the Leafs will be former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk.
Here is the announcement from the Red Wings: …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio believes he is a bit wiser after his blunder during Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Jets led to the winning goal.
At some point tonight in the Lightning's game with the Capitals, Tampa Bay defenseman Mark Barberio might find himself on the ice trying to defend against Washington star Alex Ovechkin.
A daunting task, to be sure, for the rookie with just 18 NHL games under his belt. But Barberio believes he is a bit wiser after his blunder during Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Jets led to the winning goal.
"I've talked about it with (assistant coach Rick Bowness) already and looked at it on video," Barberio said Tuesday. "It's a mistake. it was a mental mistake. When I've got a guy at the net, I can't let up for even a second because that's all the guys need in this league, one second, one chance to put it in. Hockey is a game of mistakes, and mistakes are going to happen. The key is to make sure you don't commit the same mistakes."
Barberio's mistake came 1:04 into the extra period when Winnipeg's Mark Sheifele went to the net with Barberio covering. Somehow, Barberio got turned around and didn't see Blake Wheeler's pass from the left wing until Sheifele was putting it past goaltender Anders Lindback. …Full Story
Adam Erne sent a text message of apology to Jonathan Drouin for the from-behind hit on Friday that caused Drouin, a fellow Lightning prospect, to sustain a concussion, the French language newspaper La Presse reported.
Erne, a second-round draft pick last summer, who plays for Quebec of the junior Quebec league, was not suspended for the hit. Drouin, the No. 3 overall draft pick, plays for Halifax.
Adding more fuel to the incident is Erne is expected to play for the United States at the upcoming world junior championship. Drouin is expected to play for Canada, though that will depend on how quickly Drouin recovers from what his team described as a "minor" concussion.
"I had speed and I saw his number, but I did not hit him with the shoulder, I just pushed," Erne is quoted as saying in La Presse. "I was not trying to hurt him."
Halifax general manager Cam Russell told the Chronicle Herald newspaper in Halifax that he is disappointed Erne was not suspended. …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Jonathan Drouin might have sustained a concussion from the from-behind hit from fellow Lightning prospect Adam Erne.
Whether they had seen the hit Lightning prospect Adam Erne put on fellow prospect Jonathan Drouin in a Friday night game -- Drouin might have sustained a concussion from the from-behind hit -- Tampa Bay players say there is no responsibility to hold up on any hit against any opponent (even if they are in the same organization).
The only responsibility is to to play clean.
"It's a game," Lightning left wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie said. "Once the game starts you have no friends. You have to finish your hit. You don't slow down. But if it's an illegal hit, you can't do that."
Erne, who plays for Quebec of the junior Quebec league, wasn't apologetic after the game, saying he believed Drouin, who plays for Halifax, dove.
"He wasn't far from the boards and I pushed him pretty hard," said Erne, who received a game misconduct for the hit. I thought it was a dive and I thought everybody else did, too. I wouldn't even have gotten a penalty if he didn't dive into the boards." …Full Story
The Lightning's organizational goaltending depth underwent a significant shakeup this week with the promotion of Kristers Gudlevskis to AHL Syracuse. The 124th overall pick of last summer's draft, had been playing for ECHL Florida.
That means the Crunch currently has three goaltenders: Gudlevskis, Cedrick Desjardins and Riku Helenius, who is the odd man out. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman even said the move will affect Helenius' practice and game time.
But Tampa Bay has been so impressed by Gudlevskis, 21, that it felt it had to make the move, even though it is creating, in the short term at least, an uncomfortable situation at Syracuse.
"We are very impressed with his maturity, his work ethic, his athleticism," Yzerman said. "We like his attitude. We're encouraged by it. He's a good prospect."
Gudlevskis was 7-4-0 in 11 games for the Everblades with a 1.83 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. In four games with Syracuse he is 4-0-0 with a 1.92 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Asked if he is targeting a specific date for a return, Steven Stamkos, pictured during a news conference last month, on Wednesday would not say.
Is Lightning star Steven Stamkos targeting a Feb. 6 return from the broken right tibia he sustained Nov. 11 at Boston? That was the report this week from Darren Dreger of Canada's TSN.
Asked if he is targeting a specific date for a return, Stamkos on Wednesday would not say but offered this: "It’s impossible to tell, really. I mentioned in my press conference I’d love to come back and play a couple games and be able to play in the Olympics. That’s my goal. You have to have a goal and you work towards your goal."
If Stamkos does return by Feb. 6, he could play two games for the Lightning before the Olympic break. On playing for Canada at the Sochi Olympics, he said it won't happen "unless I am 100 percent."
Stamkos, in sneakers and standing on a piece of wood for traction, shot pucks on the Tampa Bay Times Forum ice on Wednesday.
"I just wanted to get a fee for the stick. I miss it after a while," he said, and added, "I feel good considering what's happened and the timeframe it's been. It' encouraging."
Here is more from Stamkos: …Full Story
Ryan Malone, who was hit with a puck Nov. 22 at Anaheim, has a non displaced ankle fracture and is expected out three to four weeks.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper hinted Tuesday morning that left wing Ryan Malone might be out a while, but gave no specifics. It was up to general manager Steve Yzerman to deliver the bad news:
Malone, who was hit with a puck Nov. 22 at Anaheim, has a non displaced ankle fracture and is expected out three to four weeks.
There just seems to be no respite from injury news for Tampa Bay, which has six players out with injuries: Malone, defensemen Brian Lee (knee) and Radko Gudas (upper body), and forwards Malone, Steven Stamkos (broken right leg), Tom Pyatt (collarbone) and Pierre-Cedric Labrie (left arm/elbow).
Labrie participated in Tuesday's morning skate, though with a red no-contact jersey. Labrie will miss his third straight game tonight against the Blue Jackets with a left arm/elbow issue. He is on the mend, though, as Cooper said Labrie shot the puck well, and Labrie said his best-case scenario has him ready to go by Saturday's game with the Jets. There also is a chance Gudas could be ready by the weekend. …Full Story
Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop left the ice prematurely during the morning skate after being hit in the hand with a shot. Coach Jon Cooper said he believed Bishop is okay, and Bishop on his way out of the building said he same.
Anders Lindback was supposed to get the start tonight against the Flyers anyway, Cooper said, no no plans had to be changed.
The injury is the latest in a plague of them that lately has hit Tampa Bay. Six off the roster are currently hurt, and left wing Ryan Malone (foot) was put on injured reserve with what is believed to be a chipped bone in his foot, sustained blocking a shot Friday against the Ducks.
If you inlcude defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Brian Lee, Tampa Bay's injured list is up to eight, though defenseman Keith Aulie apparently is available to play. The others are:
Defenseman Radko Gudas (upper body) and forwards Steven Stamkos (leg), Tom Pyatt (collarbone) and Pierre-Cedric Labrie (arm).
At least Cooper is able to keep his sense of humor.
"Stammer gets hurt back-checking. Malone gets hurt blocking a shot. All this defense first is taking our guys down. …Full Story