TAMPA — There was a bit of intrigue Wednesday as C Steven Stamkos' agents from Newport Sports were in town, in the stands watching the morning skate.
Stamkos, 25, is in the final year of his contract, his uncertain status a major mystery in the hockey world.
But the presence of agents Don Meehan and Mark Guy didn't mean Stamkos is any closer to a deal. GM Steve Yzerman wasn't even in Tampa on Wednesday. Guy said they were in town for an annual Thanksgiving trip, watching several clients on the Lightning and Kings.
Stamkos' representatives remain "engaged" with Yzerman, though there's not believed to be any offers from either side.
"Nothing new," Guy said.
JOHNNY BE GOOD: C Tyler Johnson returned to the lineup Wednesday, saying he was "refreshed" after missing three games with an upper body injury.
"We're a better team with Johnny on the ice," coach Jon Cooper said.
Johnson hopes to improve on a slow start to the season, just three goals and seven assists in his first 19 games. Johnson had 29 goals last season, his first All-Star selection, before racking up 13 in the playoffs.
"I can definitely play better, you always can," Johnson said. "I feel like we've gotten some chances, just didn't bury it. But at the same time, you can always create more, can always do more. So I want to be better, I'm not at the level I want to be at yet, but hopefully I can get there soon."
What has been missing?
"There's a lot," Johnson said. "I think the biggest thing we did last year was we played with speed in every aspect of the game. We're not quite up to that level yet, I think we can be, it's just a matter of time in order to have that chemistry, that's moving feet more, that quickness."
MORE MEDICAL: LW Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed) participated in the optional morning skate, with Cedric Paquette (upper body) not participating. Cooper said Paquette's absence wasn't a setback, though he's not sure if the two forwards will play this week. "Day to day," Cooper said.
Ondrej Palat (left ankle), expected to be out 3-5 weeks after getting hurt Nov. 7, has been skating on his own, with Cooper saying he could begin practicing with the team on its California trip next week.
The three-week mark in Palat's recovery is Saturday.
"He's still a little ways away," Cooper said. "I don't want to speculate, but he's still got a little more time."
NUTS AND BOLTS: G Ben Bishop made his third straight start. … D Luke Witkowski, called up Tuesday after getting reassigned Sunday to Syracuse, didn't mind the whirlwind travel the past two days. He was in the lineup Thursday, with the Lightning going with seven defensemen. "This is where I want to be," Witkowski said. LW Joel Vermin was scratched, with RW Jonathan Marchessault in. … Former first-round pick D Tony DeAngelo, the Crunch's leading scorer, was a healthy scratch Wednesday, per Syracuse announcer Dan D'Uva.
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