Switch to wing helps Lightning’s Tyler Johnson

The Lightning's Tyler Johnson (9) looks down at the puck as St. Louis Blues' Paul Stastny (26) watches during the first period of Tuesday's game in St. Louis. [AP Photo/Jeff Roberson]
The Lightning's Tyler Johnson (9) looks down at the puck as St. Louis Blues' Paul Stastny (26) watches during the first period of Tuesday's game in St. Louis. [AP Photo/Jeff Roberson]
Published December 13 2017
Updated December 13 2017

ST. LOUIS — Tyler Johnson hasn’t played very much wing in his career, primarily sticking to his natural center position.

But lately, Johnson has been stellar on the right side.

Johnson’s assist in Tuesday’s win over the Blues extended his point streak to a season-high five games (three multi-point efforts), all coming since he moved to wing. He snapped a career-long 15-game goal drought Dec. 2 when put alongside Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov. On Tuesday, Johnson flanked C Brayden Point, setting him up on his first-period goal.

Johnson said with the Lightning’s system, there isn’t much difference playing center and wing as far as defensive responsibilities. He and Point took turns on faceoffs Tuesday. But the move has benefited Johnson, who made a heck of a play circling the Blues net before patiently finding a trailing Point for Tuesday’s goal.

"It’s nice you get up in the zone a little bit more, create some speed in transitional play," Johnson said. "You’re more of a north-south, straight up and down kind of game. And playing with those guys, they’re great players, it’s a lot of fun."

Conacher’s case

F Cory Conacher has said he hoped to stick with the Lightning this time around.

So far, so good.

Conacher played in his fifth straight game Tuesday, clicking on a third line with Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde.

Conacher was thought to be a temporary fill-in when called up Dec. 2 during C Cedric Paquette’s one-game suspension. But Conacher’s more engaged play, three points in five games, has made it harder on coaches to send him back to AHL Syracuse.

"He’s been in the lineup and hasn’t come out," coach Jon Cooper said. "He’s earned his right there. We don’t hand out lineup spots like Halloween candy. You’ve got to earn them, and he’s earned his spot."

If Conacher plays 10 cumulative NHL games this season, or spends up to 30 days on the Lightning roster, he’d have to clear waivers first before getting sent down to Syracuse.

But if Conacher, on a two-year deal, keeps playing like this, he won’t have to worry about that.

Lining up

Ryan Callahan (undisclosed) was a surprise late scratch Tuesday. That meant both Conacher and RW J.T. Brown were in the lineup. G Andrei Vasilevskiy was in net. D Slater Koekkoek remained in, with D Andrej Sustr scratched.

D Braydon Coburn (undisclosed) missed his fifth straight game but participated in a team skate for the first time. Cooper said he’s hopeful Coburn will play on this four-game trip, but it is not guaranteed.

High praise

St. Louis coach Mike Yeo is impressed with the multi-dimensional offensive attack of the Lightning.

"It’s a team that has the ability to score, but more than that, they’re hungry to score," Yeo said. "They’re dangerous off the rush, they’re dangerous in the offensive zone, they can score by making plays and finding seams and creating movement but they can also score at the net."

Familiar faces

Cooper was very familiar with a few Blues, having coached F Brayden Schenn and D Colton Parayko for Team Canada at the summer’s World Championships. "He’s awesome, I really enjoyed playing for him," Parayko said. "He’s a coach that’s willing to help out in all areas."

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