Jonathan Drouin back for Lightning
The Lightning may have lost captain Steven Stamkos for a long-time, potentially four months or more with a torn meniscus.
But Tampa Bay should get a boost tonight against the Sabres with the return of wing Jonathan Drouin, who had missed seven games with an upper body injury.
"That's one big plus for us, timing-wise, is Drouin is coming back," coach Jon Cooper said. "As much pain as we're feeling, that eases it a little bit. It's going to be good to have him, but he's going to be somebody that's got to take some more responsibility."
Drouin did just that in last year's playoffs, returning from AHL Syracuse near the end of the regular season when Stamkos was sidelined with a blood clot. Drouin became one of the team's key playmakers in the playoffs, with 14 points in 17 games. Drouin said he feels like he did before the injury, when he was hit in the head by Islanders' Calvin de Haan.
"I don't think it's going to only be me," Drouin said. "It's up to every guy to elevate their game to another level."
Drouin will start out tonight on the third line with Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula. The other lines got shuffled with Stamkos' absence, with Vladislav Namestnikov centering Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. Tyler Johnson is between Alex Killorn and Brayden Point. The fourth line, which has been a catalyst as of late, remained the same with Brian Boyle-Cedric Paquette-J.T. Brown.
More from morning skate: G Ben Bishop will start in net, with D Luke Witkowski expected to be the healthy scratch...D Anton Stralman, who will miss his third straight game with an upper body injury, skated on his own after the morning workout. But Cooper said there's no new update, that "it's tough to see if he's going to play on this trip."