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Anton Stralman skates, 'not near ready'

Anton Stralman, center, five weeks into his recovery from a fractured left leg, isn't close to returning to the lineup.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Anton Stralman, center, five weeks into his recovery from a fractured left leg, isn't close to returning to the lineup.

Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman made an appearance Friday, skating in full gear on his own before the team's practice at the Ice Sports Forum.

But Stralman, five weeks into his recovery from a fractured left leg, isn't close to returning to the lineup.

"Not near ready yet," coach Jon Cooper said.

Cooper had said the Lightning was hopeful to get Stralman back at some point during this series. But until Stralman starts skating with the team, his return is not imminent. RW J.T. Brown (upper body) also doesn't appear anywhere close to a return.

D Matt Carle, RW Mike Blunden, RW Erik Condra did not practice Friday, and are considered day-to-day. The Lightning brought some "black aces" to skate in practice, with LW Joel Vermin and Tye McGinn, either of which could fill in Saturday. D Slater Koekkoek and D Luke Witkowski were up too. "They told us to be ready." Koekkoek said.

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Erik Condra 'much better' after big hit Thursday

Erik Condra looked dazed, having to get helped off by a trainer and two teammates, and never returned in a 5-3 Game 1 loss to New York.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Erik Condra looked dazed, having to get helped off by a trainer and two teammates, and never returned in a 5-3 Game 1 loss to New York.

It certainly didn't look good Wednesday when wing Erik Condra took a nasty fall into the boards early in the first period, thanks to a hit by the Islanders' Casey Cizikas.

Condra looked dazed, having to get helped off by a trainer and two teammates, and never returned in a 5-3 Game 1 loss to New York.

But coach Jon Cooper seemed encouraged with how Condra is feeling Thursday, even if it's questionable whether the wing can skate the next few days.

"That was a hit that looked really bad," Cooper said. "But he's doing a lot better than the actual hit looked."

Cooper didn't appear to have an issue with Cizikas hit, which came near the Lightning red line as Condra was sending a pass up ice. "A hockey play," Cooper said.

Cooper's not sure if Condra will skate in the next couple days, or be available for Saturday's Game 2. Tampa Bay may have a forward or two from the black aces practice Friday.

"He's fine, he's in good spirits," Cooper said. "Just a tough one." …

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Podcast: Previewing Lightning-Islanders series

After nearly a week between games, the Lightning will finally begin round two of the playoffs against the Islanders Wednesday at Amalie Arena.

This should be a tough matchup for the Lightning, the Islanders rolling in after a wild double-overtime victory Sunday in Game 6 over the Atlantic Division winning Panthers.

In this week's podcast, we break down this series, with the help of Arthur Staple, the Islanders beat writer for Newsday. We'll also discuss the return of captain Steven Stamkos, who practiced with the team for the first time - albeit in a red non contact jersey - Tuesday. Will he play this season?

(Click below to listen)

 

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Ben Bishop named Vezina Trophy finalist

Ben Bishop led the league with a 2.06 goals against average, going 35-21 with a .926 save percentage.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Ben Bishop led the league with a 2.06 goals against average, going 35-21 with a .926 save percentage.

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop was named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league's best goaltender.

The announcement, made before Wednesday's Game 1, wasn't a surprise, as Bishop led the league with a 2.06 goals against average, going 35-21 with a .926 save percentage. Bishop has as strong a case as any, with Capitals' Braden Holtby and Kings' Jonathan Quick the other finalists. The league's 30 general managers voted on the Vezina after the regular season was over. GM Steve Yzerman has said he'd vote for Bishop.

"I don't get a Vezina vote," coach Jon Cooper said late in the season. "I wish I did, because I know who it'd go to."

Bishop was a Vezina finalist after the 2013-14 season. Asked what it'd mean to win one, Bishop said late in the season. "Obviously it would be a great honor," Bishop said. "I don't really go out and say, 'I want to win the Vezina.' I go out and want to play well and give the team a chance to win. If you do that, stuff takes care of itself."

 

 

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Could Jonathan Marchessault make '16 playoff debut tonight?

Jonathan Marchessault came off today's optional morning skate early, along with wing Erik Condra, who is playing.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jonathan Marchessault came off today's optional morning skate early, along with wing Erik Condra, who is playing.

For the entire first-round series, forward Jonathan Marchessault was a spectator.

Marchessault was a healthy scratch for all five games of the Lightning's series win over Detroit. He'd say all the right things, how it's playoffs and if the team is winning, it's hard to change the lineup. Marchessault said he'll be ready for his turn.

Will it be tonight?

Marchessault came off today's optional morning skate early, along with wing Erik Condra, who is playing. Mike Blunden came off later. Asked if he's back in the lineup, Marchesssault would only say, "We'll see."

Marchessault's presence makes sense considering the Islanders' speed. He had seven goals and 11 assists (a minus-10) in 45 games this season. …

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Steven Stamkos back on ice in red sweater

Steven Stamkos returned to the ice today — albeit in a red non-contact sweater — for the Lightning's practice.

JOE SMITH | Times

Steven Stamkos returned to the ice today — albeit in a red non-contact sweater — for the Lightning's practice.

Steven Stamkos is back. 

The Lightning captain returned to the ice Tuesday - albeit in a red non-contact sweater - for practice, his first with the team since undergoing vascular surgery to repair a blood clot in his collarbone April 4.

"It was fantastic," he said.

Stamkos was expected to miss 1-3 months, and he said that timeline hasn't changed, with the "million dollar question" on when he can get off blood thinners. Coach Jon Cooper said he fully expects to go another entire series without his leading scorer.

The good news for Stamkos is he feels great, hish rehab and recovery going well. But it's also the frustrating part of not being able to play. He was a limited participant in practice, taking a few line rushes and one-timers at half speed.

"It's really just a waiting game now," Stamkos said. "Obviously you can't rush back to things of this magnitude. I'd say nothing has changed in that regard. I feel great, that's the tough part is feeling physically ready to play almost. But obviously with this type of injury and the blood thinners and stuff like that, you have to take your time." …

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Lightning hopeful Anton Stralman plays in second round

Lightning center Tyler Johnson was zipping around the ice Sunday, saying he feels way better than in Thursday's Game 5, when he left the game temporarily battling an illness. 

"All of a sudden, the trash can was getting a little heavier and my body was a little lighter," Johnson quipped.

He wasn't alone. Coach Jon Cooper said between 2-5 players were dealing with a flu bug Thursday. But thanks to back to back days off, that issue is gone as the Lightning feels healthy and rested as they await their second round opponent. It'll be either the Panthers or Islanders, which lead the series 3-2 heading into tonight's Game 6 in Brooklyn. Tampa Bay plans to take Monday off too before returning to practice Tuesday. 

Cooper said while defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured leg) won't be ready for the start of the series - he hasn't begun skating yet - he's hopeful Stralman will play at some point in the series. Cooper didn't seem as optimistic about J.T. Brown (upper body), indicating if he returns it'd be later in the series. 

Wing Ryan Callahan didn't skate today (rest day) and Mike Blunden (personal). Both expected back Tuesday. 

 

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Victor Hedman thriving in big-time minutes

Victor Hedman logged 30:02 in Game 4, just the third time in his career he's played over 30 minutes.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Victor Hedman logged 30:02 in Game 4, just the third time in his career he's played over 30 minutes.

Defenseman Victor Hedman said before this series he wants to play more minutes.

And the Lightning have granted him his wish, Hedman logging 30:02 in Game 4, just the third time in his career he's played over 30 minutes.

"He's our horse back there," coach Jon Cooper said. "I don't think we're the only team in the league that plays guys that amount of minutes, especially with (Anton) Stralman out, Hedman has to carry more of the load. You look at some of the gifted players in the league that can do this, the Ryan Suters, the Duncan Keiths, the Drew Doughtys, for some reason they've got another oxygenn tank hidden in their bodies somewhere they can pull it off. Heddy is one of those guys, once again he was really big for us."

Hedman averaged 23 minutes during the season, only six times over 26, the Lightning managing his minutes. But Hedman played 28:56 in Game 1 and 26 minutes in Game 3. The only other games he's played 30 were overtime games, Game 2 against Montreal in the playoffs last year (career-high 31:32) and 30:45 Mar 12, 2015 against Boston. …

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Lightning want to finish series tonight

"It's not a race to three," veteran center Brian Boyle said. "It's a race to four.''

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

"It's not a race to three," veteran center Brian Boyle said. "It's a race to four.''

The Lightning have a chance to close out this first-round series with Detroit tonight in Game 5, holding a 3-1 series advantage.

But it knows from previous experience it won't be easy.

"It's not a race to three," veteran center Brian Boyle said. "It's a race to four.''

The Lightning played a record 26 games - of a possible 28 - in last year's playoffs, which may or may not have had an impact. There's a chance now with a win tonight to get potentially a week before the next series.

On a scale of 1-10, is rest a motivating factor?

"10," coach Jon Cooper said. "Any chance in the playoffs you can get a break, you want to take advantage of it."

More from morning skate: G Ben Bishop will start in net. Cooper wouldn't confirm his lineup, but it wouldn't be surprising to see them go 11 forwards and seven defensemen like in Game 4. Matt Taormina, who grew up in Detroit area, enjoyed his NHL playoff debut Tuesday, albeit in playing fewer than three minutes. Everyone was accounted for at today's morning skate. The black aces have arrived from AHL Syracuse and will practice at 1 p.m.

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Despite reports, Steven Stamkos could be back for Final

Steven Stamkos left the hospital last week and has been a presence with teammates, joining them for a team dinner on the eve of Game 1, watching games from the lockeroom.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos left the hospital last week and has been a presence with teammates, joining them for a team dinner on the eve of Game 1, watching games from the lockeroom.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos isn't participating in the playoffs so far, yet he's still in the news.

A report from Canada's TSN Monday suggested that it'd be unlikely Stamkos would be ready to join Tampa Bay even if it reached the Stanley Cup Final. Stamkos, who underwent surgery April 4 to remove a blood clot from his right collarbone, was expected to be out 1-3 months, and there's been no indication from the team that timeline has changed.

The TSN report quoted national experts who worked with athletes with blood clots.

But Stamkos' surgeon, Dr. Karl Illig, said while he can't specifically discuss the Lightning captain, it's certainly possible - in general - an athlete can return in two months with this condition, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The Cup Final would likely begin around the start of June.

"Definitely be possible to be back in two months," Illig told the Tampa Bay Times. "Often they are physically ready before that, just blood thinners make the difference." …

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Erik Condra pumped to play near hometown, Red Wings make changes

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Erik Condra shoots and scores beating Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard for the first goal of the game during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 22.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Erik Condra shoots and scores beating Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard for the first goal of the game during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 22.

Lightning wing Erik Condra would be excited enough just to be playing in Sunday's Game 3 against the Red Wings, considering he was a healthy scratch in the first two.

But the fact Condra is from the Detroit area makes this one even more special - and expensive - considering the amount of ticket requests from family and friends.

"Have to be paying to play tonight, that's for sure," Condra said, smiling.

Condra gets an opportunity because of J.T. Brown's upper body injury, suffered Friday, which will keep him out the rest of the series. Coach Jon Cooper shuffled the bottom-six, moving Vladislav Namestnikov up to the line with Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan, inserting Condra back with Brian Boyle and Mike Blunden, a trio that clicked late in the season.

"I like the mix of Condra, Blundy and Boyle, they played together beore, they've been really effective," Cooper said. "It should be a seamless transition. Plus Erik is from Detroit, his ticket count went up quite a bit."

After a slow start to his first season in Tampa Bay, Condra felt he was playing his best hockey near the end, three of his six goals coming in his final nine games. …

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Anton Stralman on trip, a 'chance' he could play second round

Anton Stralman speaks to the media on April 3 after breaking his leg.

Courtesy of Paul Kennedy, Fox Sports Sun

Anton Stralman speaks to the media on April 3 after breaking his leg.

Defenseman Anton Stralman is moving closer to a return to the Lightning lineup.

Stralman joined Tampa Bay on its trip to Detroit for Games 3 and 4. And while Stralman won't play in this first-round series, he seems to be making some encouraging progress.

Stralman, who fractured his left leg Mar. 25, no longer uses crutches or a cast. On Sunday, Stralman was working out with the team's strength and conditioning assistant Mark Lambert, then rode the exercise bike.

"He will not play in the first round," coach Jon Cooper said. "If we're fortunate enough to move on, then now we can start talking about, 'There's a chance of seeing him.' But there's no timeline. I can just say he will not be playing against Detroit."

But like with captain Steven Stamkos (blood clot, out 1-3 months), having Stralman's presence around the team can be impactful. …

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J.T. Brown to miss rest of series for Lightning

JT Brown in Amalie Arena

[DIRK SHADD | Times]

JT Brown in Amalie Arena

The Lightning has been dealt another blow injury-wise, with forward J.T. Brown expected to miss the rest of this first-round series, and possibly more, due to an upper body injury suffered in Friday's Game 2.

Brown, 25, a key cog on the Lightning's shutdown line and penalty kill, got hurt in the first period while blocking a shot near the blueline. He didn't return. Brown had a career bests in goals (eight), points (22) and plus-minus (plus-16) this season.

"It's our third playoffs together, and if you're going to pull that unsung hero tag, he's definitely at the top of the list," coach Jon Cooper said. "He won't light the scoreboard up in points, but you're not going to find too many more bigger gamers than J.T. Brown. That's a tough loss for us. But in the mantra of the (Steven) Stamkos' and (Anton) Stralman's, let's just keep this going and make sure that wasn't J.T. Brown's last game."

For Game 3 Sunday in Detroit, expect wing Erik Condra or Jonathan Marchessault to take Brown's spot. Both Condra and Marchesssault have been scratched the first two games. …

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Steven Stamkos' presence 'uplifting' to Lightning

Steven Stamkos is out 1-3 months following surgery, diagnosed two weeks from yesterday.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos is out 1-3 months following surgery, diagnosed two weeks from yesterday.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos may not be playing in these playoffs, but he still has a presence around the team.

Stamkos, who had vascular surgery to fix a blood clot April 4, was at the Lightning's team dinner Tuesday, the eve of the first-round series with the Red Wings. He also attended Wednesday's Game 1 victory over Detroit, watching from the lockeroom.

Stamkos is out 1-3 months following surgery, diagnosed two weeks from yesterday.

"It's just killing him not being able to play," coach Jon Cooper said. "When he was in the hospital I'm sure myself and everyone else on the team went to see him before we went on the road trip. It's remarkable. It seems like it just happened and it's actually two weeks ago yesterday. He's been in touch with a lot of guys, he's staying out of the public eye, but it's just hard, we want him playing. He wants to be playing so bad.

"You see (Anton) Stralman (fractured leg) limping around, you can see what happened. But what happened to Steven is inside his body. So it's different. He's in good spirits, just a tough part he can't jump on the ice." …

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Lightning hope Tyler Johnson will be on the ice for tonight's playoff opener

Tyler Johnson suffered an upper body injury in Saturday's game in Montreal, hitting his head/shoulders into the boards.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tyler Johnson suffered an upper body injury in Saturday's game in Montreal, hitting his head/shoulders into the boards.

Lightning center Tyler Johnson felt pretty good after skating with the team for the second straight day.

And while Johnson said they'll decide tonight if he'll play in Game 1 against the Red Wings, it appears there's a good chance he will. Johnson suffered an upper body injury in Saturday's game in Montreal, hitting his head/shoulders into the boards.

Johnson is used to playing through pain, having battled through a broken wrist during the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks. It's the playoffs, as he said.

"I think you go through the lockerooms of both teams, or any team in the playoffs, guys are going to be (banged up) at this point in the season," Johnson said. "As long as you can do your job."

If Johnson can't go, look for Jonathan Marchessault to slot in for him. Otherwise Marchessault, Erik Condra and Matt Taormina appear to be the healthy scratches.

Vladislav Namestnikov is in the lineup, playing on the fourth line with Brian Boyle and Mike Blunden. Namestnikov has seemingly played with every forward this season, from the top line to fourth. Namestnikov said it's tough, but he makes the most of it. …

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