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Video: Steven Stamkos continues his rehab of broken leg

Lightning star Steven Stamkos continued his rehab of a broken right leg with a few spins around the ice in Vancouver after the team's Dec. 31 practice.

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Report: Bishop left off Team USA roster

According to a Sunday report in the Detroit Free Press, the Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard — not the Lightning’s Ben Bishop — will be the third goalie for the U.S. Olympic team in February, joining the Sabres’ Ryan Miller and Kings’ Jonathan Quick.

Bishop (20-5-3, 1.89 goals against average) has been considered a strong candidate for his impressive play this season. The Free Press cited an anonymous source "with knowledge of the selection process."

But Dave Fischer, senior director of communications for USA Hockey, told the Tampa Bay Times in an email late Sunday night that the “final roster has not yet been settled on,” though it’s “certainly very close.” Fischer said players will find out their fate during the official televised announcement on Wednesday following the Winter Classic.

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Lightning will channel past in wardrobe-themed road trip

Taking a page out of Rays manager Joe Maddon's playbook, Lightning coach Jon Cooper planned a unique wardrobe theme for the team's upcoming road trip to western Canada.

On the plane ride to Vancouver Monday, players are going to wear old hockey jerseys from their junior teams, college teams, even going as far back as pee-wee. Cooper said that with the team heading into the hockey "hotbed" of North America, with games in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnepeg, it'll be a great way to bond and recognize "where these guys came from."

Some are wearing their old college jerseys, like Alex Killorn (Harvard), while other will go way back to their early years, with defenseman Matt Carle donning a jersey from his youth Alaska All-Stars team.

"It'll be fun for the guys and to get to find out about teams that you never probably heard of or never knew that guys played for," Cooper said. "And with some of those it'll give an opportunity for guys to talk about their teams, talk about where they came from."

 

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Yzerman looking forward to Red Wings alumni game

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman admits he's a bit "apprehensive" about playing in Tuesday's Red Wings-Maple Leafs Alumni game, having not put on skates since the summer.

But Yzerman, 48, a former Red Wings captain and franchise icon, is looking forward to being an active participant in the event itself, which he labels a "celebration of the history of the organization." About 100 former players will play in two outdoor games Tuesday afternoon at Comerica Park, preceding the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

Several other members of the Lightning organization, Dave Andrychuk, Steve Thomas and Pat Verbeek will also play, with games at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

"There's going to be a lot of former Red Wings players, guys that I've played with and played for me," Yzerman said. "I look at it as a celebration of the history of the organization. I'm looking forward to that with the players and the fans."

Yzerman hasn't played much at all since retiring in 2006, with the Hall of Famer saying the last time he skated was for a "few minutes" during the summer. He said he's bought skates but hasn't had time to put them on, hoping to get on the ice Monday. …

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Malone moving closer to return

Veteran forward Ryan Malone participated in a full-team skate the past two days, taking a significant step in returning from a non-displaced ankle fracture.

Malone, who was hit by a puck Nov. 22 in Anaheim, had prevoiusly been skating on his own. He is hoping that he'll be able to return sometime during next week's road trip, with the key being getting his conditioning up.

"It felt good for just coming back," Malone said. "I've just got to make srue I keep pushing the pace each day in practice, do what I can to make sure I'll be in the best shape I can to be ready."

Coach Jon Cooper said Malone is making progress.

"He's not ready," Cooper said. "He's on track. Now it's consistency will be a big part of what we're going to do here. I would say it's going to be on him now. But I think he's made a lot of progress and hopefully next week he should be ready to go."

D Eric Brewer (upper body) was on the ice for today's morning skate, but in a red non-contact jersey. He said it felt good to be back on the ice, but has to get over a "hump" before returning. Doesn't look like it'll be until at least next week's road trip. D Sami Salo (upper body) also didn't skate today. …

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Cooper hopes Brewer will miss just 1 game; Barberio back in tonight vs. Panthers

Just when the Lightning was making progress whittling down its injury list -- it was down to four -- defenseman Eric Brewer sustained an upper-body injury (believe to be an arm injury) in Saturday's 3-2 overtime victory over the Hurricanes.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said he does not believe the injury is serious and he hopes Brewer will miss only tonight's game with the Panthers.

"Not long-term," Cooper said. "Hopefully, this is the only game he misses."

With Brewer out, Mark Barberio gets back in the lineup in a pairing with Sami Salo. Victor Hedman will play with Andrej Sustr. Matt Carle and Radko Gudas remain together.

Barberio returns to the lineup after two games as a healthy scratch and after playing fewer than 10 minutes in three of his past four games.

"I'm just trying to find consistency in my game," Barberio said. "I know there are some games I'm feeling good and plays are working, and other times I'm a bit jittery or nervous with the puck." …

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Injured F Tom Pyatt, after missing 32 games, back in the lineup against the Hurricanes

For Tom Pyatt, tonight's game against the Hurricanes, the Lightning's 35th game of the season, will feel like his first.

Pyatt has missed 32 games with a broken collarbone sustained Oct. 8 at Buffallo. That was Tampa Bay's third game of the season but the first for Pyatt, who had been a healthy scratch in the first two. Pyatt had played 13:15 of that game before he was hurt.

That is why he said he feels as if he hasn't really played yet this season.

"It's been a while," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and have fun and not over-think it. Just make the reads and have fun with it."

Pyatt's return is a good sign for Tampa Bay which has seen its injury list dwindle from a high of nine down to four: Steven Stamkos (right leg), Keith Aulie (left hand), Ryan Malone (ankle) and Brian Lee (knee). But it also is good news for coach Jon Cooper who gets back a versatile player, who had eight goals, 16 points and was plus-5 in 43 games last season. …

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Lightning fan pays it forward

A lucky young hockey fan got his Christmas wish during Thursday night's Lightning-Predators game, thanks to the generosity of a thoughtful benefactor.

The young guy had been sitting near the glass holding up a sign that said, "ALL I WANT FOR XMAS IS A HOCKEY PUCK."

His wish was granted in the second period when a puck flew over the glass and the older fan caught it. What happens next is pure goodness.

 

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Pavel Kubina announces retirement: 'My heart ... my home will always be among you in Tampa Bay'

Former Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina officially announced his retirement on Friday.

One of the good guys, Kubina was a seventh-round draft choice in 1996 (179th overall) and ended up playing 10 of his 13 seasons with Tampa Bay. He also played for the Thrashers, Maple Leafs and Flyers.

Kubina, a major part of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup team, had 72 goals, 243 points in 662 games for the Lightning. He and his family still live in the Tampa Bay area.

Here is a letter he released upon his retirement:

The time has come to announce my retirement from the game of hockey.

This marks the end of a journey that started as a six-year-old boy in a tiny town in the Czech Republic and carried me through 970 games in the National Hockey League, many playoff games and a Stanley Cup Championship, three Olympics, and four World Championships over my 13-year NHL career. …

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Hedman back in the lineup tonight against the Predators

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.

AP photo

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. …

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Lightning signs defenseman J.P. Cote to a 2-year contract

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. …

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Hedman might be on track for Thursday return

Victor Hedman (lower body) will miss his sixth game tonight at the Islanders but moved well during the morning skate.

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." …

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Steven Stamkos is back on skates

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."

 …

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Video: Stamkos back on skates in New Jersey

Steven Stamkos today in New Jersey skated for the first time since breaking his right leg Nov. 11 in Boston.

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.

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Panik didn't expect 2-game suspension for Alzner hit, but 'you accept it and go from there'

Richard Panik said he did not expect the two-game suspension.

AP photo

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. …

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