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Garrison injury tough blow to Lightning blueline

Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan (6) collides with Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison (5) along the boards as left wing Ondrej Palat looks on Monday in Ottawa. [Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP]

Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan (6) collides with Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison (5) along the boards as left wing Ondrej Palat looks on Monday in Ottawa. [Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP]

The Lightning lost more than just a game Monday night in Ottawa.

It also lost defenseman Jason Garrison, who missed the final two periods with a lower body injury that will keep him out tonight against the Canadiens (and potentially beyond). Garrison, considered day-to-day, will be re-evaluated when the team gets back to Tampa Wednesday.

"We'll know more on Jason when we get home," GM Steve Yzerman said.

It's a tough blow for Tampa Bay, which has had a relatively healthy blue line for most of this season but now is without a top-four defenseman and key penalty killer. Garrison ranks second on the team in blocked shots (76) and fourth in hits (68), his 16:18 average even strength ice time third on the team.

"That's a tough one too, because he's a big minute-munching defenseman for us," coach Jon Cooper said. "A big body and size. Tough when we lost him."

With Garrison playing just four minutes Monday, versatile center Brian Boyle played many shifts on defense, which he's done often the past two years. Garrison's absence likely means veteran Matt Carle will return to the lineup tonight. …

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Are Maple Leafs gearing up to make run at Stamkos?

Steven Stamkos has maintained he wants to stay in Tampa Bay, and still hopes to get a deal done that would keep him with the only franchise he's ever known since getting drafted as an 18-year-old in 2008.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos has maintained he wants to stay in Tampa Bay, and still hopes to get a deal done that would keep him with the only franchise he's ever known since getting drafted as an 18-year-old in 2008.

There's no guarantee that captain Steven Stamkos leaves the Lightning as a free agent this summer.

And if he does, it's still unclear whether Stamkos would even want to play for his hometown Maple Leafs, a rebuilding team in a rabid hockey market.

But it's widely believed the Maple Leafs plan to make a run at Stamkos, if he's available. And Tuesday's blockbuster, nine-player trade with Ottawa that unloaded captain Dion Phaneuf and created cap space certainly sparked speculation that Toronto is gearing up for the potential Stamkos sweepstakes this summer.

"This gives us the opportunity to do things," Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters. "This was a transaction that certainly wasn't for today."

How about July 1? When Stamkos would become an unrestricted free agent, if he doesn't sign an extension with the Lightning. Tampa Bay has reportedly offered Stamkos a deal with an $8.5 million annual average. …

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Turris relates to Drouin's plight: 'It's a tough, tough go'

While the Lightning will play in Jonathan Drouin's hometown of Montreal Tuesday, the suspended wing continues to work out and skate on his own every day somewhere in the city.

That's been Drouin's routine the past three weeks, since he did not show up for the Jan. 20 game for AHL Syracuse, forcing the indefinite suspension without pay. Drouin, who requested a trade in November, didn't want to suffer a deal-altering injury, so he waits in limbo, with no timetable on when - or if - the No. 3 pick from 2013 gets his desired fresh start.

Drouin has declined interview requests, so it's hard to know exactly what he's thinking.

But it's not a fun situation, according to Senators center Kyle Turris, 26, who went through a somewhat similar saga five years ago. Turris, the No. 3 overall pick in 2007 by the Coyotes, didn't feel he was getting used right in Arizona, requesting a trade in the summer of 2011 and holding out the first six weeks of the season, as an unsigned restricted free agent. …

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Condra to face former team, Bishop won't

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was one of the last players off the ice at Monday's optional skate, acknowledging to the swarm of Ottawa-based reporters he would not get a chance to face his former team tonight.

"It's been a good run while it lasted," Bishop joked.

Bishop has been dominant against the Senators, which traded him to the Lightning in the spring of 2013, going 8-0-3 with a 2.12 goals against average in 12 career starts. But with Tampa Bay having a back-to-back, Bishop would only start one of the games, and that'll be Tuesday against the Canadiens. G Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the nod tonight.

"Obviously you'd like to start (against Ottawa)," Bishop said. "But, at the same time, you realize the situation with the back-to-back, it's probably one or the other. It's (coach Jon Cooper's) decision, not mine. So whenever I get the nod, I'll go out and play well."

Bishop also has great numbers against Montreal (10-1-3, 1.62 GAA in 15 games), not including the playoff series victory last season. …

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Lightning's Paquette: 'It's just not my year'

Cedric Paquette has had some bad luck, missing a good chunk of the season due to a right foot/ankle injury suffered blocking a shot during the preseason and then reaggravated in November.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Cedric Paquette has had some bad luck, missing a good chunk of the season due to a right foot/ankle injury suffered blocking a shot during the preseason and then reaggravated in November.

During Thursday's practice, center Cedric Paquette took a slap shot off his left shin and buckled to the ice.

After getting helped off to the dressing room, Paquette would return after practice at the Ice Sports Forum ended, drawing a large ovation from teammates.

"It's just not my year," he said afterwards.

Paquette has had some bad luck, missing a good chunk of the season due to a right foot/ankle injury suffered blocking a shot during the preseason and then reaggravated in November.

"He's a warrior though," coach Jon Cooper said.

Injuries aside, Paquette hasn't been happy with his game, entering Friday's game with just two goals and two assists in 26 games. He's still trying to find his confidence.

"It's more my offensive side," Paquette said. "I'm just playing a little bit too simple right now. I don't want to make a mistake. I wasn't thinking about that last year, and I do this year. It's just confidence." …

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Red Wings' Blashill: Lightning 'really rolling now'

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning beat the Red Wings in a seven-game series in the first round of the playoffs in April.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning beat the Red Wings in a seven-game series in the first round of the playoffs in April.

Coach Jon Cooper said tonight's showdown with the Red Wings will be a "measuring stick" for the Lightning.

Apparently, Detroit feels the same way about Tampa Bay, which beat the Red Wings in a seven-game series in the first round of the playoffs in April. Detorit won the first two meetings this season, but the Lightning has won eight of its last nine to move into a tie for second in the Atlantic Division.

"They're healthy now and early in the year, they weren't healthy," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Nobody uses that as an excuse, that's why it's probably not talked about enough. But when you lose unique players, usually you see those teams dip a little bit. Once they got back it takes a while to get rolling, but they certainly look like they're rolling now. They've got a lot of really good players, they're well-coached, they're what everybody thought they were at the beginning of the year, that's one of the best teams in the East. I think it has much to do with health as anything."

Blashill, long-timem friends with Cooper, said he's leaned on his buddy for advice this season, his first as an NHL coach. …

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Podcast: Bishop on journey to first All-Star Game

Ben Bishop has been the Lightning's MVP this season, playing arguably the best hockey of his career.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ben Bishop has been the Lightning's MVP this season, playing arguably the best hockey of his career.

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is headed to his first NHL All-Star game, and it is well deserved.

Bishop, 29, has been the team's MVP this season, playing arguably the best hockey of his career. It has to be gratifying, considering he's now on his third NHL team, finally getting his chance. In this week's Lightning Strikes Podcast, the Times sat down with Bishop, discussing what the All-Star selection means to him, and his journey to get here. He'll join captain Steven Stamkos in Sunday's game in Nashville.

I'll also discuss the latest developments in the Stamkos contract saga, and what the reported eight-year, $68 million offer by the Lightning means. And I'll break down the potential of a Jonathan Drouin trade.

(Click below to listen)

 

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Stamkos watch as Leafs in town: 'Everyone wants Stammer here'

Ryan Callahan said Lightning players aren't talking to Steven Stamkos, pictured, about his contract, or trying to recruit him.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ryan Callahan said Lightning players aren't talking to Steven Stamkos, pictured, about his contract, or trying to recruit him.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos did not speak this morning after the optional morning skate.

But that didn't make Stamkos any less of a topic of discussion with his hometown Maple Leafs in town. There were a horde of media from Toronto, as well as Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, who broke the story Saturday of the Lightning making an offer of eight years, $68 million to Stamkos, who is in the final year of his contract.

Coach Jon Cooper reiterated the Stamkos contract saga, not to mention the Jonathan Drouin trade request, haven't creeped into the dressing room. And veteran wing Ryan Callahan echoed that point. Callahan has been in this situation, the former Rangers captain in the final year of his contract in 2014 before getting traded at the deadline to the Lightning in the Marty St. Louis trade.

"The biggest thing is not letting it get to you," Callahan said. "Coming to the rink and keeping that on the outside and let your agent deal with most of that, that's what you pay him for. It's coming to the rhink and doing your job and worry about the team and what you have to do on the ice."

Did it ever get to Callahan? …

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Stamkos declines to comment on reported offer, wants to stay

Captain Steven Stamkos would neither confirm nor deny a Saturday report by Canada's Sportsnet that the Lightning has offered an eight-year, $68 million contract extension in recent weeks.

"I'm not going to comment on that," Stamkos told the Times Sunday at the Lightning's family carnival at Amalie Arena. "We haven't talked about that stuff in the media all season long and I don't know how they get a hold of stuff like that. All the things that we've talked about, it's staying internally and it'll continue to be that way."

But Stamkos, in the final year of his current deal, reiterated he hopes to stay with Tampa Bay for a long time. He has maintained that communication between his agents at Newport Sports and the Lightning have remained open, and that negotiations are not at a stalemate. The $8.5 million annual average of the reported offer, which is believed to be an initial one, would be a million more than what he's making this season. Neither GM Steve Yzerman nor agents at Newport Sports have commented on the report. …

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All-Star goalies match up in special state showdown

The Lightning and Panthers are atop the Atlantic Division, making for a special showdown tonight in Sunrise.

Tampa Bay trails Florida by three points, but has won seven straight, and could tie a franchise record with eight. The divison's All-Star goalies, Lightning's Ben Bishop and Panthers' Roberto Luongo will be in net.

"It's not too often you can say the two Florida teams are first and second division and playing real well and both good hockey teams," Florida coach Gerard Gallant said. "It's a lot of fun. You want to win every divisional game, but even this game tonight is a real big game."

The Panthers snapped a four-game losing streak Friday with a 4-0 win over Chicago. Coach Jon Cooper said he hopes that Florida makes the playoffs.

"I think for hockey in Florida, it'd be great if the Panthers got in," Cooper said. "You look at those rivalries, say it's Islanders-Rangers, or Calgary -Edmonton, those in-province, in-state rivalries, and we have a team right now in our backyard and for us to both be in the playoffs, and who knows what woudl happen if we ever met in a playoff series? I think it'd be great for hockey in Florida and a great series to watch." …

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Bolts GM Yzerman: Drouin's decision won't help us trade him

Jonathan Drouin was suspended indefinitely without pay Wednesday for failing to report to a game with AHL Syracuse in Toronto.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jonathan Drouin was suspended indefinitely without pay Wednesday for failing to report to a game with AHL Syracuse in Toronto.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman expressed disappointment in the Jonathan Drouin saga today, saying he didn't envision it coming to this with the No. 3 overall pick in 2013. 

Yzerman suspended Drouin indefinitely without pay Wednesday for failing to report to a game with AHL Syracuse in Toronto. Yzerman said he's still "aggressively and actively" trying to trade Drouin, who requested a trade in November, but isn't close to a deal and won't feel more pressure to make one. Yzerman said this obviously can't help, with Drouin saying through agent Allan Walsh he doesn't plan to continue with the Lightning in "any capacity."

"I've told Jonathan and his agent we will trade him if and when we can make a deal that is good for the Tampa Bay Lightning," Yzerman said. "In that sense, nothing has changed."

(HOW DROUIN SAGA STARTED: The agent for Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin goes public with a November trade request.

ALL PARTIES AT FAULT: Drouin, Lightning both share blame in wing's trade request

TOM JONES COLUMN: Drouin's heel turn a dumb move.

DROUIN SUSPENDED: The Lightning suspends Jonathan Drouin without pay for not showing up for an AHL game.) …

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Drouin suspended for not showing up for Syracuse

Jonathan Drouin, who made a trade request in November, has been suspended by the Lightning indefinitely without pay for not showing up tonight to play for AHL Syracuse in Toronto.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jonathan Drouin, who made a trade request in November, has been suspended by the Lightning indefinitely without pay for not showing up tonight to play for AHL Syracuse in Toronto.

The Jonathan Drouin saga took another stunning twist Wednesday night, and got a whole lot uglier.

Drouin, 20, who made a trade request in November, has been suspended by the Lightning indefinitely without pay for not showing up to play for AHL Syracuse in Toronto. The Lightning said in a statement it has no further comment on the issue. Drouin has played seven games for Syracuse while awaiting a potential deal.

Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, had already made the bold move of disclosing his trade request publicly Jan. 3, through Drouin's agent Allan Walsh, who called the situation in Tampa Bay "untenable." There's been significant interest from many teams in Drouin, with trade speculation running rampant the past few weeks.

MORE LIGHTNING: Visit our Lightning page for everything you need, from breaking news to live game commentary.

Here's a full statement from Walsh, released this evening. …

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Andrei Vasilevskiy to start in goal against Oilers; Boyle back in the lineup

Andrei Vasilevskiy has won his last four starts, including stopping 36 shots in Friday's overtime win against Pittsburgh.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Andrei Vasilevskiy has won his last four starts, including stopping 36 shots in Friday's overtime win against Pittsburgh.

Coach Jon Cooper suggested he'd like to get goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy at least two starts during this stretch before the All-Star break.

And Vasilevskiy will make his second in three games tonight against the Oilers, as the Lightning tries to reach a six-game winning streak for the first timet since Oct. 28-Nov. 9, 2014.

Vasilevskiy has won his last four starts, including stopping 36 shots in Friday's overtime win against Pittsburgh. The Lightning has just three more games until the Jan. 28-Feb 1 All-Star break, and Cooper said Vasilevskiy might get another start.

All-Star Ben Bishop appears in line to start Thursday's Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Blackhawks. While Cooper had said they hadn't planned on Vasilevskiy going to AHL Syracuse to get spot starts, it would seem likely the 20-year-old Russian will, especially Jan. 29-30 while Tampa Bay is on the break.

The Lightning plays this Saturday and next Wednesday, just like the Crunch. Goalie Kristers Gudlevskis would come up and be Bishop's backup if Vasilevsky goes down. …

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Vasilevskiy starts against Penguins, Marchessault likely out

Despite Ben Bishop coming off a shutout Tuesday in Colorado, Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in net tonight for the Lightning against the Penguins.

Coach Jon Cooper said the team needs Vasilevskiy to get some playing time during this stretch of six games before the All-Star break, hoping to get the Russian at least two of those starts. Vasilevskiy last played Saturday, performing well in a 3-2 overtime win in Vancouver.

Cooper didn't rule out Vasilevskiy making a trip back to AHL Syracuse to get action, like he has several times this season.

"We don't count on having Vasilevskiy have to go back, but if he does, he will," Cooper said. "It's proven that it's been successful that he's gone back and played a game and come up for us and been successful for us. What we don't want to be in a situation where somebody is sitting 10 days, two weeks. We want to keep both of these guys going." …

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Drouin trade talks appear to be heating up

There's a lot of smoke surrounding the potential trade of Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin.

While nothing appears imminent, there seems to be some momentum, with TVA's Renaud Lavoie reporting it could come in the next 24 hours. GM Steve Yzerman has been content to take his time with this one, hoping to get "equal" value in return for the No.3 overall pick in 2013. But remember Yzerman has had since November, when Drouin first made his trade request, to start working on this, not just since it became public last week.

The Blues are thought by many to be a top candidate, and considering how often Yzerman and assistant GM Pat Verbeek have attended St. Louis games, that's no surprise. But the Blues aren't the only team who have shown interest, with the Ducks, Predators and Wild among the others. it'd seem likely the Lightning would prefer to trade Drouin to the Western Conference, not having to face him several times a year. …

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