Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning counting on another 'stinker' bounce-back

BRANDON — Goalie Ben Bishop was the first player on the ice Saturday morning, drawing cheers from the small army of Lightning fans who had made their way to the Ice Sports Forum to watch their team practice a little less than 14 hours after a flat 5-3 loss Friday to the Blue Jackets.

What followed was a spirited workout.

"The guys were engaged," coach Jon Cooper said.

The Lightning is looking to bounce back from what Cooper called a "stinker" of a loss at home as it begins a three-game road trip today at Boston.

"You have to turn the page right away," forward Tyler Johnson said after practice.

The Lightning has been able to do that this season, rebounding from a pair of sloppy losses for a pair of crisp road wins.

After a 4-0 loss to the visiting Avalanche during the first homestand, the Lightning began a six-game road trip with a 4-1 win at Ottawa. Four games later, the Lightning was steamrolled by the Rangers in a 6-1 loss. Two nights later it beat the Islanders 6-1.

"This group is a proud group," Cooper said. "They've been together for some time now, and they have found an ability to bounce back after games where we know we weren't our best. The problem with that is the fact that you are having one of those games means you had a stinker the night before, and so you don't want to make that a habit.

"I have no doubt, you can't predict the final score (today), but I know our effort level will be at a peak."

The effort level was present at practice as the Lightning worked on what Cooper said were core habits that make it one of the NHL's top teams.

When pressed on what those are, Cooper said, "In the sense (that) the most important net on the ice is ours, and it gets away from us sometimes. We think it's (the opponent's), and that's not the case. We just have to emphasise that."

That was evident Friday when the Lightning was outplayed in every phase and allowed quick goals twice after scoring goals that helped it erase 2-0 and 3-1 deficits.

"We have a lot of character on this team," Johnson said. "Obviously, we don't like losing, so guys get back to work right away. We don't dwell on it. Once you dwell on it, once you think about it too long, that's when bad things tend to happen.

"We definitely know what we have inside ourselves. We know we can play better. It's just a matter of doing it."

STRALMAN CLOSER TO RETURN: Defenseman Anton Stralman (upper-body injury) was cleared for contact and skated Saturday in his normal black practice jersey.

"It's the next step in the process to coming back and be healthy," Stralman said. "It's a big test to have physical contact and see how it reacts. We'll see how it feels (today), and we'll go from there."

Stralman missed his seventh straight game Friday. He said the plan was to return at some point on the three-game trip that begins today and ends Thursday in St. Louis.

"I hope so. That's kind of the goal," he said. "But I guess it's a little too early to say if that's going to happen, but that's the goal and timetable we're working toward."

Said Cooper, "What's the line? He's out until he's not."

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