The Lightning made a minor trade Saturday, swapping minor leaguers when it acquired RW Stefan Fournier from Arizona for RW Jeremy Morin, who spent the season at Syracuse.
Fournier, 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, played in 29 games this season at AHL Tucson, scoring two goals and assisting on two others. Fournier, 24, has played in 139 AHL during his career.
Morin, who played in a combined 82 NHL games with the Black Hawks and Blue Jackets during parts of six seasons, signed a two-way contract last July with the Lightning. He played in 43 games this season for the Crunch.
Jonathan Drouin returned to practice this morning as the Lightning had a double session of work.
The team worked on the power play and penalty kill during the first session.
The Lightning, which did not practice Friday, practices again Sunday in advance of Monday’s game against the visiting Senators.
The good news for the Lightning was the Senators and Panthers, two of the teams it is trying to catch in the standings, both lost Friday.
With 62 points, the Lightning is six points behind the Islanders for the second wild card spot and six points behind the Maple Leafs for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.
But the playoff picture will change somewhat before the Lightning play Monday with the Islanders, Maple Leafs, Sabres and Flyers in action today and the Bruins, Senators, Panthers and Sabres playing Sunday.
The Senators are at the Panthers on Sunday, meaning Monday’s game in Tampa Bay will be the Senators’ second in back-to-back days.
TSN reports that Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk nixed a potential deal to the Lightning six weeks ago.
The Lightning has been looking for a puck-moving, right-shot defenseman for a long time.
Tampa Bay and the St. Louis Blues have been scouting each other since last year's Jonathan Drouin sweepstakes. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Blues GM Doug Armstrong even watched Tampa Bay's game in L.A. together Jan. 17. They spoke again the next night in Anaheim.
So it shouldn't be a huge surprise that the two clubs were linked in an interesting report Thursday night that Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk nixed a potential deal to the Lightning six weeks ago. TSN's Bob McKenzie was first to report it, with Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford confirming that Shattenkirk turned down what would have been a seven-year, $42 million deal with Tampa Bay.
Shattenkirk, 28, a pending unrestricted free agent, doesn't have a no-trade clause. But Shattenkirk has leverage as if the Blues want to get anything of significance for him in return, he'd have to accept a long-term extension with another team. …
Jonathan Drouin will be a game-time decision tonight, having missed Wednesday's practice.
Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin has been battling the flu the past couple weeks, making what he's done on the ice all the more remarkable.
But coach Jon Cooper said Drouin will be a game-time decision tonight, having missed Wednesday's practice.
"We hope (he can play)," Cooper said.
With Drouin's status in doubt, forward Cory Conacher was recalled from AHL Syracuse for the second time in four days. Conacher skated this morning and is available. This is a big game for the Lightning, which is just four points out of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay has pointed in seven straight games, a season-high.
In net, it looks like Andrei Vasilevskiy will start. While Ben Bishop has won five straight starts, this is the Lightning's pattern to play Vasilevskiy so he doesn't go 10-11 days between games. Vasilevskiy last started Saturday in Dallas. This way, Bishop would start Monday against Atlantic Division rival Ottawa. And Vasilevskiy has played pretty well too, his 37-save performance in Minnesota before the bye a big reason why the Lightning pointed in that game. …
Ryan Callahan has played in just 18 games for the Lightning this season.
Ryan Callahan's season could be over.
The veteran Lightning wing had a follow-up surgical procedure on his right hip Tuesday in New York, with GM Steve Yzerman saying Callahan is expected to miss the rest of the regular season.
The good news is that doctors found out what had been causing discomfort in Callahan's hip since it was surgically-repaired in June. Yzerman said the labrum remains in tact, and it's more of a scar tissue issue.
So while this injury is season-threatening, it's not expected to be career-threatening. Callahan still has three more years left on his deal after this season. If Callahan returns this year will depend on how far the Lightning goes in the playoffs, if it makes it.
"All in all, it's encouraging," Yzerman said.
Callahan has played in just 18 games this season, his hip - which was surgically-repaired in June - continuing to give him issues. He's been out since early January, with the team hoping some strengthening and rehab would help.
"He just didn't feel right," Yzerman said.
Callahan had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Bryan Kelly this week and the exploratory procedure was done. …
What should the Lightning do with goaltender Ben Bishop, who becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer?
Should the Lightning trade - or keep - goaltender Ben BIshop at the NHL trade deadline? What's been the spark with the Triplets line? Times columnist Tom Jones and beat reporter Joe Smith discuss the Lightning's plans, the emergence of Nikita Kucherov and more in our latest Lightning Strikes! podcast.
The Lightning has won four of its past six, with all four victories started by Ben Bishop, who has a 1.21 goals against average in that span.
Still want to trade Ben Bishop?
The Lightning goaltender is playing some of his best hockey of the season. And, depending on how you look at it, the timing couldn't be any better.
With Tampa Bay fightning for its playoff life, Bishop has won his last four starts, including Sunday's 3-2 overtime victory in Colorado. The Lightning has won four of its last six, with all four victories started by Bishop, who has a 1.21 goals against average in that span.
So it should come as no surprise that Bishop is starting Tuesday against the Oilers. Coach Jon Cooper said the team's improved defensive play and Bishop's resurgence go hand in hand.
"He's just in command of his game," Cooper said. "He looks intimidating when he's in there. He's making saves with ease. He's not giving up rebounds."
Said Bishop: "I feel like I'm getting some bounces now, not getting many fluky ones. Guys are playing well and it's kind of a snowball effect. Hopefully we can keep building."
When asked if he'd consider riding Bishop more, Cooper said both goalies have played well in the six-game point streak, and that will continue. …
Steven Stamkos is still on the 4-6 month timeline, but a return this season hasn't been ruled out.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is back on the ice.
Stamkos, out since mid-November knee surgery, has been skating on his own, including before Tuesday's morning skate. Stamkos was in full gear Tuesday, working with assistant coach Brad Lauer. Stamkos did stickhandling, shooting, even taking some one-timers.
GM Steve Yzerman said Stamkos is still on the 4-6 month timeline, but a return this season hasn't been ruled out.
"He's progressing well," Yzerman said. "He's doing well, but can't give a return date yet."
A four month recovery would put Stamkos back in mid-March. Six months is mid-May. So that's still a wide range. But the fact Stamkos is skating, and doing hockey-specific drills, is encouraging. The Lightning is 16-18-7 since Stamkos got hurt.
Stamkos hasn't spoken to the media about his rehab since Nov. 17 surgery, he'll address the media when he rejoins a team skate. But Zach Parise, who had the same surgery in 2010, discussed with the Times what the process was like for him. …
If the Lightning can move a contract like Valtteri Filppula's, pictured, or Jason Garrison's, that could free up space.
The Lightning is rolling, picking up a point in six straight games, a season-high.
Tampa Bay entered Monday just five points out of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
And that certainly complicates things for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman heading into the Mar. 1 trade deadline. That holds especially true when it comes to what to do with pending unrestricted free agents like Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle.
"We're fighting to try to get one of the eight playoff spots," Yzerman said Monday. "This is a good thing, we're playing well, we're winning games. Does it make it a little bit more difficult as to what direction to go? I guess. It's not just 'buyers' and 'sellers.' You can be somewhere in the middle of that too.
"We're competing for a playoff spot so if I'm going to move people.. I'm not just giving people away here. If it makes sense, I'll do it. If it doesn't make sense, I'm not. It's not a firesale." …
You'd think of all players, goalies would be the most impacted by the bye week.
Five days without facing a shot can't be easy for a position so dependent on feel and split-second reaction.
But Lightning goalie Ben Bishop didn't seem fazed in Friday's first practice back.
"I felt like I never missed a beat," he said.
Tampa Bay better hope that holds up Saturday against the Stars at American Airlines Arena when Andrei Vasilevskiy starts in net. The biggest reason for the Lightning's recent run - having won three of its last four - has been its goaltending. Bishop has allowed three goals in his past three starts. Vasilevskiy made 37 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss in Minnesota.
"They've been our best players," coach Jon Cooper said.
But judging from how goaltenders have responded after the bye this season, picking up where you left off is easier said than done. Just ask the Panthers' James Reimer, who was pulled in his post-bye start after allowing three goals in 14 shots. Rangers' star Henrik Lundqvist had an awful .789 save percentage in his first three starts after the break. Former Lightning goalie Mike Smith was at .878 for Arizona. …
The good news for the Lightning is that Tyler Johnson is expected back in the lineup tonight against the Stars.
The bad news? Wing Jonathan Drouin has a flu bug, and is a game-time decision. Cory Conacher was called up from AHL Syracuse and is in route in case Drouin can't go; or Tampa Bay can go with seven defensemen.
"I hope (Drouin) can play," coach Jon Cooper said. "But you never know how things go."
Johnson, who missed the last two games before the five-day bye with a lower body injury, felt good after his second straight day on the ice. "He's good to go," Cooper said.
The Lightning (25-24-7) are facing a struggling Stars team that has lost six of their last seven. But the bye week hasn't been kind to teams, which are 3-9-2 in first game back. Those who had byes this month are 0-5-1 in the first game.
But Cooper doesn't seem concerned, liking the way the players have responded the past two days.
"I like the way the guys are snapping it around," Cooper said. …
On Thursday, Vinny Lecavalier put on a Lightning jersey for the first time in four years.
But first, the former Lightning captain went hunting.
Those are the spoils of being a retired player.
“Just nice to be outdoors,” he said. “Something different to do.”
Saturday will be different, too. Lecavalier, 36, will be back on the ice at Amalie Arena at 5 p.m. for the Lightning alumni game against former Bruins’ players at Amalie Arena. It’s part of the third annual Hockey Day in Tampa Bay, with other events including high school championships, sled hockey game and street hockey tournaments. All proceeds from event ($10 in advance, $15 at the door), proceed the Jason Ritchie Foundation and Lightning sled hockey.
But the main event will be the alumni, game, with Lecavalier joined by the likes of Dave Andreychuk, Ruslan Fedotenko and Chris Dingman. The Bruins are bringing Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. It’ll be just the third time Lecavalier has played since retiring at the end of last season. With more alumni staying in Tampa Bay, there should be more activities down the road. …
Tyler Johnson missed the last two games with a lower body injury, was a full participant in Friday's first practice.
One positive to come out of the Lightning's bye week is the potential return of center Tyler Johnson.
Johnson, who missed the last two games with a lower body injury, was a full participant in Friday's first practice after the five-day bye. Johnson was in a regular jersey, on a line with Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov.
It's a good sign Johnson might be available for Saturday's game in Dallas. The team will decide after Saturday's morning skate.
"Had a good practice today, so we'll see it feels tomorrow," Johnson said.
Johnson got hurt Feb. 7 against the Kings. He tried to take part in Friday's morning skate in Minnesota, but left early. "Unfortunately I didn't feel ready to play," Johnson said. "Luckily the break came at a really good time, and we'll see how it goes tomorrow."
Teams have struggled coming out of the bye this season. Those who have had byes in February are 0-5-0 so far. Coach Jon Cooper hopes the Lightning can buck that streak, noting it's "urgency time" in its playoff hopes. …
What should the Lightning do with Brian Boyle at the trade deadline?
In this week's edition of our Lightning Strikes! podcast, Times sports columnist Tom Jones and beat reporter Joe Smith discuss whether the bye week is a good or bad thing for the Lightning. What does the Lightning do with Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle at the trade deadline? Is it time to worry about Ryan Callahan? And is Jonathan Drouin the most exciting player in Lightning history?
Wing Erik Condra has been the Lightning's yo-yo this season, getting recalled eight times from AHL Syracuse.
The latest came Thursday, Condra, 30, arriving after midnight in St. Paul, Minn after yet another flight. This time it was on American Airlines.
"Name (the airline), I've flown them," Condra quipped. "Allegiant, Southwest, America. I'm a Delta guy, so I have all the perks."
Condra isn't complaining. He knows he gets paid good money ($1.5 million this season) to play a game he loves. Every callup is exciting, as any day in the NHL is a good day. But it's still been a very trying season, mostly on his family, which remains in Tampa while he's mostly been in Syracuse. The constant shuffling has taken its toll on Condra's two kids, son, Callan, 2 1/2 and daughter Ellery, 10 months.
"They say, 'It's Mommy's house' and 'Daddy's house,'" Condra said. "But what can I do?"
It's tough for Condra to make plans. His dad came to visit him in Syracuse over Christmas, but Condra got called up, so they flew to Tampa together. Same thing happened with his family. "I'm lucky my wife (Ryan) has been a champ," Condra said. "She's been amazing. Without her, I don't think I'd be as sane as I am." …