Cooper "jacked" for first game; Sustr could make debut
New Lightning coach Jon Cooper sure looked relaxed Friday morning for a guy who will make his NHL coaching debut tonight against the Devils.
He had his team go through an up-tempo and fun morning skate, making players laugh by cracking a few jokes during a stretching period.
But Cooper said, on the inside, he was quite the opposite, a "wave of emotions."
"I'm jacked," Cooper said. "This is really, really exciting. When I took the job in the American League, I think it dictated a path, it's like, 'Okay, I'm going for it, I'm going pro. But at that time, I never thought I was ever going to be a head coach in the NHL... There's been a few sleepless nights, that's for sure. I wouldn't say that you're really nervous, I'm sure five minutes before the game I'm going to be. The most nervous I was was addressing the team for hte first time. But now you feel like we're all together. It's a wave of emotions, but unbelievable. I wish everybody could be feeling what I'm feeling right now, because it's pretty cool."
Cooper may not be the only one making his NHL debut tonight. He said they could be going with seven defenseman, and it's possible that rookie D Andrej Sustr, recently signed from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, could be in the lineup.
Sustr, 22, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound defenseman, has only practiced with the team for a few days, but Cooper has been impressed with his skating ability, and said he "hasn't looked out of place at all."
"It's definitely different in college," Sustr. "The speed is a little bit faster, but it's not that big of a difference. I don't feel too bad out there, so we'll see what happens."
Sustr will skate in warm-ups and whether he plays will be a game-time decision.
"I'm just getting ready just like it's any other game," Sustr said. "And if I'm going to be playing, I'm sure once he tells me I'm playing I'll get a little more nervous."
Other stuff from morning skate: G Mathieu Garon will start in net.... C Vinny Lecavalier (lower body injury) is still skating on his own and progressing, but there's no updated timetable on his return. G Anders Lindback (ankle) said he's been able to do light workouts and is improving, and is hoping to get back on the ice next week...Rookie forward Cory Conacher was excited to see his former school, Canisius, earn their first NCAA Tournament bid.