Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Jonathan Drouin shows no ill effects of Game 3 hit

NEWARK, N.J. — Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin zipped through the neutral zone at Thursday's practice, picking up speed as he zigzagged around teammates. He dangled the puck and single-handedly set up a power play.

Assistant coach Steve Thomas, standing at the blue line, watched Drouin blow by and just smiled, almost laughing.

"He's just feeling it," said Thomas, who scored 421 career NHL goals in 20 seasons. "He's got a ton of confidence with the puck."

"That," teammate Cedric Paquette said, "is the Jo we know."

Other than a gash on the top of his nose, Drouin showed no ill effects from a thunderous hit he absorbed from the Islanders' Thomas Hickey early in the second period of Wednesday's 5-4 overtime win in Game 3. The Lightning carries a 2-1 lead in the second-round playoff series into tonight's Game 4 in New York.

Drouin passed all medical tests during Game 3 and returned midway through the third, setting up Nikita Kucherov for the tying goal with 38 seconds left in regulation. That gave Drouin seven assists, tied for the team playoff lead with Tyler Johnson and third in the league entering Thursday.

Paquette didn't think Drouin would return to the game. But how Drouin has looked gives Paquette a flashback.

"I played against (Drouin) in juniors, and that's pretty much the same thing," Paquette said. "He's feeling good right now, and that's good for us."

Drouin was a dominating player in juniors for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, with 213 points in two seasons (95 games) while displaying the dynamic skill set that made him the No. 3 overall draft pick by the Lightning in 2013.

But it wasn't until after Drouin returned to the Lightning from AHL Syracuse in early April, buoyed by nine goals in a 10-game stint with the Crunch, that he started to feel the same kind of confidence. This time he's on the game's biggest stage.

"It's just instincts now," Drouin said. "Sometimes you tend to think too much. Ever since I came back from Syracuse, it's just playing the game, not thinking about what's going on, who is on the ice. It's just me playing hockey."

Had captain Steven Stamkos not been sidelined with a blood clot since March 31, Drouin might not have gotten a second chance with the Lightning after requesting a trade in November and then refusing to play for Syracuse for six weeks after being sent down in January. He has thrived in a top-six role and become a key cog on the power play.

It's hard to tell how his performance will affect Drouin's future in Tampa Bay. But Drouin is making the most of his opportunity, including bouncing back from the Hickey hit, which the 21-year-old wing had no issue with. Hickey's crushing shoulder blow snapped his head back.

"I think I walked into that one more than he did anything dirty," Drouin said. "I had my head down. It's part of hockey, and it was a good hit."

Drouin downplayed the hit Thursday after practice at the Devils' practice rink at the Prudential Center. And you wouldn't have been able to tell it had happened based on how Drouin looked on the ice.

"I'm sure that hit is going to be shown a few more times," coach Jon Cooper said. "It was one of those that I think looked way worse than it was. (Drouin) got hit in the nose; you know how it is. If you smack (a) camera in your face and hit your nose, your eyes would be watering for a bit.

"But he showed a lot of resiliency coming back, and it's a good thing he did. Because he's a big reason why we pushed that game into overtime."

Thomas thought back to that Drouin sequence in practice and couldn't put his finger on what has clicked with the touted wing, whom center Brian Boyle said is a "different player."

"For me, he 'gets it' out there now," Thomas said. "More than anything, (it's) just being confident playing in the league now. He knows what he's capable of."

As does the rest of the NHL.

INJURY UPDATES: Defenseman Matt Carle and wing Erik Condra participated fully in practice, and there was a chance both could return to the lineup for Game 4.

Carle, who missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury, was paired with Slater Koekkoek during drills. He said he would see how he felt Friday. Condra, who also missed two games, skated on the fourth line with Mike Blunden and Vladislav Namestnikov. He said he was available to play if need be.

"They looked okay in practice," Cooper said. "Hopefully we'll get word that everybody's available, and that's a good thing."

There was no sign of defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured leg) or Stamkos at practice. Right wing J.T Brown (upper body) worked out on his own after practice, using a full stick for the first time.

Contact Joe Smith at j[email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Comments
Devils’ Wood gets 2 games for boarding Namestnikov

Devils’ Wood gets 2 games for boarding Namestnikov

Devils forward Miles Wood was suspended two games without pay for his boarding penalty Saturday night against Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov during the second period of the Devils 4-3 victory.The hit knocked Namestnikov into the boards ...
Published: 02/18/18
Flashy trades not always the smartest moves

Flashy trades not always the smartest moves

TAMPA — When it comes to the trade deadline, everyone wants the big names. They dream of blockbusters.Lightning fans would love Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson or Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Maybe even Rangers wing Rick Nash.But if you ...
Published: 02/17/18
Updated: 02/18/18
Dotchin working on ‘inconsistencies’

Dotchin working on ‘inconsistencies’

TAMPA — Lightning D Jake Dotchin was scratched Saturday against the Devils, making it the fifth time in six games that he did not play."Obviously the playing time is down a bit," Dotchin said after the morning skate. "I just got to keep working...
Published: 02/17/18
Updated: 02/18/18
Winter Olympics: Americans had brawn. Russians had more goals.

Winter Olympics: Americans had brawn. Russians had more goals.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — It was a game for Cold War nostalgia and present-day geopolitical angst, for feisty, post-whistle scraps in the corners and for cheap jokes on Twitter. It was a game drenched in history at the start and simmering with ill fee...
Published: 02/17/18
Updated: 02/18/18
Emphasis on ‘D’ continues as Lightning face Devils

Emphasis on ‘D’ continues as Lightning face Devils

The emphasis was on defense during Friday's practice and today's morning skate as the Lightning look to reduce not only the number of shots on goal allowed but also scoring chances. It allowed 39 in Thursday's win against the Red Wings and 33 in Thu...
Published: 02/17/18
Lightning falls to Devils

Lightning falls to Devils

TAMPA — The Lightning took enough shots to win Saturday’s game against the Devils. It scored enough goals to win, too. Problem was, the Lightning made enough mistakes to lose."There were a lot of positives," captain Steven Stamkos said, "but they sco...
Published: 02/17/18
Updated: 02/18/18
Winter Olympics: Youth leads U.S. men’s hockey team against Russia on Saturday

Winter Olympics: Youth leads U.S. men’s hockey team against Russia on Saturday

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk were dominating the NHL before Ryan Donato, Troy Terry and Jordan Greenway started playing organized hockey. "I think I dreamed about playing against those guys one day," Donato, 21, said. Dre...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/17/18
Fans can play games with the Lightning at Bolts Family Carnival

Fans can play games with the Lightning at Bolts Family Carnival

Fans will have a chance to interact with Lightning players, coaches, staff and alumni and challenge them to games at the Bolts Family Carnival Feb. 18 from 1-4 p.m. at Amalie Arena.Games include derby race, wacky water race, high strik...
Published: 02/16/18
Why ‘Everyman’ Brian Boyle connected with Lightning fans

Why ‘Everyman’ Brian Boyle connected with Lightning fans

TAMPA — Artie Boyle was part of the sellout crowd at Amalie Arena for the NHL All-Star Game in late January.And Boyle, 63, stood with the rest of the 19,092 fans that gave his son, Devils forward Brian Boyle, the largest ovation of the wee...
Published: 02/16/18
Brayden Point held out of practice for body maintenance

Brayden Point held out of practice for body maintenance

C Brayden Point did not skate Friday, missing the Lightning's practice with what the team termed a "body maintenance" day.Point, who did not participate in Thursday's morning skate, played in Thursday's 4-1 win against the visiting Red Wings. He took...
Published: 02/16/18