TAMPA — With the Lightning taking the next three days off for the NHL's Christmas break, coach Jon Cooper is glad it will resume play at home when it returns Saturday. The Lightning will take on the Blue Jackets at Amalie Arena.
"I've been on both ends having been on the road right before the Christmas break (and) being home before the Christmas break," Cooper said. "Personally I like being at home when you come out of breaks, but the NHL is a little different because the breaks are so short. In juniors and the American League you have much longer breaks, so I think there's a little bit more of an impact. The fact that it's just a three-day break, it doesn't (do) much.
"We play Columbus right after Christmas. … They're rushing to get to Tampa. … We're already here. I like that aspect. We've been on both ends. If you sit here and ask what I like best, it depends on if you win or not. If we win the game, then I like being home before the break."
WISH LIST: GOOD HEALTH FOR CHRISTMAS: The Lightning was on a good roll entering Tuesday's game against the Canucks, having won three of its previous four games. That was despite its injury list continuing to include some of its big players: C Tyler Johnson (upper body), LW Ondrej Palat (lower body), C Brian Boyle (upper body), LW Jonathan Drouin (lower body) and RW J.T. Brown.
As the Lightning prepared to take a break, the organization was hoping some of those players could return soon and have good health the rest of the way.
"The fact that we had two teams on the ice (at practice Tuesday), everybody is getting closer," Cooper said. "I know it's a short break, but these three days will be a little bonus, and then hopefully come the 26th, 28th, all of a sudden now you're going to start playing more guys, so it should be good.
"We're hoping Santa delivers healthy players on Christmas and they're able to be used on the 26th."
The Lightning got a bit of its Christmas wish Tuesday. Center Cedric Paquette returned to the lineup after missing the previous 15 games with an upper-body injury.
Drouin practiced with the team the previous two days and said he believed he was getting closer to returning. He said it was good to see some of the other guys skate at Monday's practice as well.
Johnson, Brown and Paquette were among the hurt guys skating with Drouin.
"Watching the game with the seven or eight (injured) guys, we can call it Team 2 almost," Drouin said. "It's been that kind of year. So it's nice to see other guys come on, too. (Paquette's) been out for a while, so it's nice to see him out there."