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Lightning hopes no rust from rest

TAMPA — Coach Jon Cooper said the unusual drill, set early in Friday's fast-paced 90-minute practice, was aimed to have the Lightning players "touch as many pucks as possible."

Players lined up across each blue line, with three — sometimes four — others skating in between, rapidly receiving and re-directing passes as they shuffled through.

"It was a little bit of organized chaos," center Nate Thompson said.

With the Lightning returning to the ice late Friday afternoon for the first time after a three-day, league-mandated holiday break, its goal was to not lose any momentum gained from a five-game winning streak.

And Tampa Bay (23-11-3) is hoping rest won't lead to rust in tonight's game against the Canadiens at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

"You go into these breaks, reel off as many (wins) as we did, you almost don't want to kind of break that up," Cooper said. "But in the big picture, I'm glad we had this little break. It was good for everybody to get a rest."

After Monday's 6-1 win in Sunrise over the Panthers, Tampa Bay wasn't allowed to practice as the league shut down Tuesday through Thursday. Many players took advantage of the time off, including Thompson, who traveled to Minnesota, and goalie Ben Bishop, who went back home to St. Louis. Both flew back to Tampa on Friday morning.

"It was a good time," Thompson said. "A lot of food, lot of drinks."

Cooper, who said he slept a lot during the break, said players are in "too good of shape that three days is going to take them down." And he thought his team looked pretty rejuvenated in what he labeled a hard skate.

"People out there say, 'Oh, you play hockey for a living, you coach hockey for a living,' and all the things that come with that," Cooper said. "But I think when you're in it, it's a grind (with) the travel, late hours, preparation. It's a ton of fun to do, and I wouldn't wish I was doing anything else. But to be on top of it, you need a couple days away and come back fired up to be back. All the guys had a little extra jump in their step (Friday)."

They also had a little fun. During a break late in the practice, forward B.J. Crombeen flipped wrist shots from the blue line at Bishop, who caught the pucks while squatting like a baseball catcher, calling balls and strikes.

"They were all balls," Bishop said, smiling. "A little low."

Bishop said there might be a little rust tonight early on. But it works both ways. Montreal had a longer layoff, having last played Dec. 20.

"The way we've been playing," Bishop said. "I don't think it'll be a factor."

NOTES: With defensemen Eric Brewer (upper body) and Sami Salo (upper body) doubtful for tonight's game, the Lightning recalled defenseman Dmitry Korobov from AHL Syracuse. … Wing Ryan Malone (ankle fracture) participated in his first full-team practice since being hurt in November but likely won't be ready to play until at least next week.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter @TBTimes_JSmith.

. Tonight

Lightning vs. Canadiens

When/where: 7, Tampa Bay Times Forum

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: The Lightning is going for its first six-game regular-season winning streak since Jan. 18-Feb. 1, 2011. … RW Marty St. Louis has a point in each of the Lightning's five straight wins, with a goal in each of his past three. … Tampa Bay is 12-0-1 when St. Louis scores. … The Canadiens, on a season-high six-game road trip, lost 2-1 in a shootout to Tampa Bay on Nov. 12 in the teams' only other meeting this year. … Montreal G Carey Price has allowed eight goals his past two games.

Lightning hopes no rust from rest 12/27/13 [Last modified: Saturday, December 28, 2013 12:28am]
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