Jonathan Drouin injury a 'concern' for Lightning
For Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin, it's been frustrating to see such little improvement in his lower-body injury, which will keep him out of his sixth consecutive game tonight.
"It (stinks)," he said.
Each day, it's been pretty much status-quo. On Saturday, however, Drouin finally saw some progress during the morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center.
"Today was a good day," he said. "A good step forward."
Drouin said there's less pain, but still doesn't feel the way he needs to. It's something that's bothered him since Oct. 27 against St. Louis, and he won't come back until he's 100 percent.
"Naturally it's a concern because we didn't anticipate it being this long," coach Jon Cooper said. "But the injury he has, those are tough ones, and it's affecting him in his stride and battle and his power. You don't want guys out there that are playing apprehensive because they're hurt. And so epsecially for a team that's struggling, you don't want to have him in there. But he can't go yet, it's unfortunate for him and us."
Drouin had been off to a strong start, with six points (five assists) in his first 10 games, playing on the top line with C Steven Stamkos.
"It's hard, you want to keep going, keep that momentum, the way you were playing, the way we were playing," Drouin said. "It's just part of the game, nothing you can do about it. But I'll come back pretty soon."
More from morning skate: G Ben Bishop will start in net after getting a rare break this week thanks to two starts by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Bishop had started 12 of the first 14 games. "It's a little different, you're used to going every other day," Bishop said. "And it's nice anytime you get a couple extra days rest. But at the same time, you want to be out there playing.... But as the season goes on, especially when you get deep into the playoffs, you'd kind of come back and say, 'Good thing you didn't play 13 of 14." With D Nikita Nesterov playing for AHL Syracuse, D Matt Carle will return to the lineup. Crunch coach Rob Zettler said in Syracuse he expects Nesterov to return to Tampa Bay after the weekend, but that won't be determined until after tonight's game...The lines were the same as Thursday....Cooper said RW Nikita Kucherov has elevated his game, dangerous every time he touches the puck. Kucherov enters tonight's game on a four-game points streak, three goals, three assists. "I felt more confidence and feel like our game is getting back," Kucherov said. "The first 10 games were like crazy, nothing working. Now it's just trying to keep it simple." While the Lightning has increased its overall faceoff win percentage (52.4), ranks second in the league, it's still struggling on special teams draws, just 47.7 percent on power play and 41.5 shorthanded. "The one thing is, there are some dots that are more important than others," Cooper said. "You hate saying that, but winning the center draw may not be as important as winning (defensive) zone draws. Big picture we've been pretty good in those areas, but we've got to find a way to win more special teams draws cause we're not winning those and those ones we need to win more often. We're getting better at it, but not where we want to be."