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Cooper happy former Lightning LW Panik finding success in Chicago

Lightning coach Jon Cooper has a pleasant surprise in Chicago, running into former Tampa Bay left wing Richard Panik during dinner.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Lightning coach Jon Cooper has a pleasant surprise in Chicago, running into former Tampa Bay left wing Richard Panik during dinner.

CHICAGO — Lightning coach Jon Cooper was having dinner downtown with his wife Monday night when a couple drinks were sent over.

What surprised Cooper was who bought them: former Lightning LW Richard Panik.

"I thought, 'How would he know I was here?' " Cooper said. "And he was sitting two tables behind me. It was pretty funny."

Cooper is happy for Panik, 25, who has found a home with the Blackhawks. Panik set up Jonathan Toews' first-period goal Tuesday. Panik's 11 goals matches a career-high, just two behind C Tyler Johnson and one more than LW Ondrej Palat. Panik, Johnson and Palat were teammates on Cooper's Calder Cup winning AHL Norfolk team in 2011-12.

The Lightning lost Panik on waivers to Toronto on the eve of the 2014-15 season, with the 6-foot-2 forward getting acquired by Chicago last January for current Lightning prospect Jeremy Morin.

"The biggest thing for Richard has been he's learned how to be a pro," Cooper said. "I think for a lot of young guys, especially with his talent, makeup — he's got the size, strength, speed and skill — he had to learn how to be a pro. He's been in the process of that and it just took him a little bit longer than some other guys. He's an electrifying player."

Panik, who got married last summer, said it doesn't feel that long ago that he grew up in the Tampa Bay organization. But a fresh start helped.

"I'm older, more experienced," Panik said. "Now I know how to play the game. The trade to Chicago helped. It's a new beginning for me and I'm so thankful."

Panik doesn't like to look back, but said if he had a better training camp in 2014 he might not have been put on waivers. "We always knew he was a real talent," LW Alex Killorn said. "I'm really happy for him."

MEDICAL MATTERS: RW J.T. Brown returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an upper body injury.

Brown had been out since taking a hit to the head by the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds on Jan. 7. But Cooper said Brown had been "symptom-free" for a week.

D Jason Garrison is getting closer, even participating in warmups Tuesday. But Garrison missed his second straight game with an illness.

Cooper said C Brayden Point (upper body), who has been skating on his own this past week, will be "legitimately day to day" after this weekend's All-Star break.

FOR FIRSTS: After D Jake Dotchin played well in his NHL debut Saturday, Cooper said the rookie "probably deserves to play another game."

And with Garrison out, Dotchin played Tuesday. Dotchin had four hits in over 11 minutes of ice time Saturday, saying he calmed down after feeling nerves in his first few shifts.

"It was something I've been thinking about since I was a kid," Dotchin said. "It was a dream come true. Surreal."

NUTS AND BOLTS: Andrei Vasilevskiy started in net. … The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Tuesday that the Coyotes' Peter Holland was fined the maximum of $3,611 for his sucker punch on Palat Saturday.

Cooper happy former Lightning LW Panik finding success in Chicago 01/24/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 9:24pm]
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