NEW YORK — While Lightning D Anton Stralman is considered day to day with an upper body injury, coach Jon Cooper isn't sure if he'll return on a five-game road trip that began with Monday's win over the Islanders.
"I can't sit here and say that, to be honest," Cooper said. "Definitely not playing in these two, probably won't play in the first three. We'll start making a decision here after a week. It'd be later in the trip if we're going to see Anton."
Stralman left Saturday's loss to the Sharks with about five minutes left, appearing to favor his mid-section area. It's unknown what the exact injury is, but Stralman had already been banged up as it is, having missed two practices last week due to "body maintenance."
Stralman traveled with the team but didn't participate in Monday's morning skate.
With Stralman out, D Luke Witkowski was recalled from AHL Syracuse. Witkowski wasn't going to play Monday against the Islanders, but Cooper said he could play depending on how long Stralman is out. Cooper said it will need to be a group effort to replace one of the team's top defensemen. The Lightning does have the experience of surviving the first two rounds of the playoffs last year without Stralman, who suffered a broken leg late in the season.
"He's a huge part of our team," Cooper said. "Injuries happen in this game, happen all the time. Somebody's got to step up, the whole group has got to step up. Attention to detail in the defensive zone is that much greater."
The defensive pairings had to be switched up, with Victor Hedman starting with Andrej Sustr, Nikita Nesterov with Jason Garrison and Slater Koekkoek with Braydon Coburn.
HIS TURN: While Witkowski was disappointed he didn't make the Lightning's opening night roster, he said there were "no hard feelings," and he made sure he was ready for this callup, which came after Saturday night's game.
"I don't control if they're keeping me on the opening night roster, just got to keep doing my thing and try to play well," Witkowski said.
Witkowski was honored to take over as Crunch captain, saying former captain Mike Angelidis helped prepare him for the role the last couple seasons. "He'd say, when you're captain you're going to have to do this,'" Witkowski said. "He probably knew I'd follow his footsteps."
LINING UP: The Lightning lines had a little different look, with Brayden Point and Alex Killorn flip-flopping spots. Killorn will start with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, Point reunited with Valtteri Filppula, along with Ryan Callahan. "They have a little chemistry," Cooper said. "Point didn't score when they were together, but I think it helped Val."
NUTS AND BOLTS: G Andrei Vasilevskiy made his sixth start of the season, with G Ben Bishop likely playing tonight in Detroit. … RW Jonathan Drouin (upper body) continued to skate in a red (non contact) jersey, but Cooper said he's progressing and could play on this trip.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.