Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Cooper: I'd welcome Drouin back to Lightning

TAMPA — RW Jonathan Drouin played for AHL Syracuse on Friday in his first game since ending his six-week holdout/suspension, and he had an assist in a 5-2 win over Bridgeport.

A lot of eyes in Tampa Bay will likely be on Drouin, 20, with GM Steve Yzerman saying the No. 3 overall draft pick from 2013 could get a callup to the Lightning. And coach Jon Cooper said that wouldn't be an issue with him, even with Drouin's decision to request a trade in November and make it public in January.

"It's not a situation for any of us where it's a personal grudge thing or anything like that," Cooper said WDAE-AM 620 on Friday. "(Drouin) felt this was something he had to do, and I think it took a lot of guts to do what he did, whether it was right or wrong. But to sit here and say, 'Oh my gosh, that kid will never come back,' you can't say that. I don't think you can sit here and say, 'Well this kid is 20 years old, made this decision and now he's done with the organization.'

"If he can help us — what's the saying? — why would you bite your nose off to spite your face? … We're trying to win a Stanley Cup, and the players in this organization that can help us win the Stanley Cup right now are what we have up top here. But if there's somebody else, including Jonathan, that can help us do that, we'd be crazy not to bring him back there."

Drouin's return to action could help him land a trade this summer. Scouts from the Capitals, Flyers, Coyotes (two), Senators, Wild, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets were in Syracuse on Friday. But Drouin could earn himself a callup, provided space opens up on the roster.

"We wish him well, hope he does well," Cooper said. "Who knows? In four, five weeks when he's back in game shape … we'll see how he's doing."

LINING UP: D Braydon Coburn returned to the lineup in the 3-1 loss to the Flyers on Friday after missing two games with a lower-body injury sustained March 5. The injury forced Coburn to miss a much-awaited return Monday to Philadelphia, where he had spent most of his career before being acquired by the Lightning in a trade-deadline deal last year.

"That was a tough one to swallow," Coburn said. "You circle that date on the schedule for when you are going to go back. It's unfortunate."

D Anton Stralman (illness) also returned after missing one game. D Matt Carle and RW Jonathan Marchessault were healthy scratches.

HIGH PRAISE: With Coburn back, D Slater Koekkoek, on an emergency recall, had to return to Syracuse. But Koekkoek, a 2012 first-round pick, made another strong impression.

"Slater has not disappointed one time since he's been up here," Cooper said. "Now it's getting to the point where you can keep putting him out and you're not thinking, 'Is he nervous? Is something going to happen here?' He's playing with confidence, and every time he keeps getting brought up here, he's improved, and that's a really good sign. He's showing his growth in the minors and his growth as a player. It's great to see that. Unfortunately, there's not room for him at this moment, but he's definitely playing himself in."

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