Lightning’s Jake Dotchin takes a step toward returning

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin (59) keeps the puck away from Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Carl Hagelin (62) during the second period of an Oct. 21, 2017 game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin (59) keeps the puck away from Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Carl Hagelin (62) during the second period of an Oct. 21, 2017 game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
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TAMPA — Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin took another step towards his return Monday with his first full practice in a couple weeks.

Dotchin was still in a red non-contact jersey, so he’s not expected to play Tuesday against the Islanders.

"He was zipping around there in his red jersey," coach Jon Cooper said. "Got to get this to blue (jersey)."

Dotchin has missed six games since suffering the "freak," undisclosed injury in a Nov. 18 loss to the Islanders. While Dotchin is feeling better, he’s being cautious before coming back.

"We’re getting there," Dotchin said. "This is something I don’t really want to rush back into. I want to feel 100 percent with this, and not only feel comfortable, but feel confident in it as well. (Monday) was a positive step)."

Dotchin’s injury has hurt the Lightning blueline, as he was typically Victor Hedman’s partner in the top pairing. Tampa Bay has had to shuffle the lineup a bit, including alternating Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr.

Veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn (undisclosed) is also banged-up, and did not practice Monday. Coburn missed Saturday’s game and appears questionable for Tuesday. "He’s making progress," Cooper said.

Dotchin said he thought his injury would heal more quickly, but it ended up taking him a week to feel better. "It’s in the home stretch now," Dotchin said. "Hope to be back soon."

With Coburn and Dotchin likely out Tuesday, Jamie McBain was recalled from Syracuse.

CONACHER STAYS: While F Cory Conacher was thought of as a temporary fill-in with C Cedric Paquette’s one-game suspension Saturday, he’s sticking around "for now," Cooper said.

Conacher has scored two goals in two games he’s played this season, coming on separate callups, including one in Saturday’s win over San Jose. Conacher practiced on a line with Yanni Gourde and Alex Killorn Monday.

"He’s played well for the time he’s been in there," Cooper said. We shuffled the deck a little bit (with lines), but he’s played well. Not looking to make any changes as of yet."

START THE FIRE? During the Lightning’s slump — a stretch of losing four of six games — Cooper lamented how his team needed to regain that "60 minute fire" of competitiveness.

And there was progress made in that aspect in Saturday’s win over San Jose. Tampa Bay will need it in a tough week hosting the Islanders (which beat the Lightning 5-3 on Nov. 18), Colorado and Winnipeg, which is tied with the Lightning for best record in the league).

"We didn’t play with that energy all on the road trip," Cooper said. "Probably since that California trip, (Saturday) was as close to the way we we played out there. It’s been a little inconsistent."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] [email protected]_JSmith.

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