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.
"He can play the middle, which is something we've been lacking since Stammer's gone down, so it gives us another option there," Cooper said. "You need a guy to jump in the power play, you need a guy to jump in the PK, he can do it all. And he's got some speed out there, so he's going to help our attack."
"I just want to come in and help the team out," said Pyatt, who added he has never in his career been hurt for such a long stretch. "The guys have been playing unreal. It's been fun to watch. The good thing about being out is I got to watch some good hockey. I just want to join in and be a big part of it."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Ben Bishop gets the start in net. Bishop has faced the Hurricanes twice since coming to the Lightning last season and has two shutouts with a total of 76 shots. ... Tampa Bay will play with 11 forwards and seven defensemen with forwards B.J. Crombeen and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and defenseman Mark Barberio the expected scratches. ... Malone is back on skates and going through conditioning drills with assistant coach George Gwozdecky. Malone won't be ready until after the new year, Cooper said. ... The power play -- on a 7-for-71 strak the past 23 games -- showed signs of life Thursday against the Predators, going 1-for-4. "We zipped it around pretty good," Cooper said. "If we can go 1-for-4 every game at a minimum, we'll take that, so we'll just have to build on that." ... Cooper joked that one reason players are all of a sudden getting healthy are Gwozdecky's conditioning skates. "You don't wish those on anybody," Cooper said. "It pushes guys to get out of being hurt quicker."