Tuesday, January 23, 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
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Turns out, Andrei Vasilevskiy is all right.And, believe it or not, so is the Lightning’s penalty kill, which was the unlikely hero in Monday’s streak-snapping 2-0 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center.Vasilevskiy, 23, played like the...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning angered by slash that has Ondrej Palat out 6-8 weeks

Lightning angered by slash that has Ondrej Palat out 6-8 weeks

CHICAGO — The Lightning got more bad news Monday with wing Ondrej Palat out 6-8 weeks with a lower-body injury. It’s a big blow to a struggling Tampa Bay team, which is now without its top defense­man (Victor Hedman) and now arguably its best defensi...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Blackhawks

Matt Peca and Michael Bournival likely won’t be the last callups by the Lightning the next month or so. There are plenty of other deserving candidates at AHL Syracuse, with Adam Erne likely getting a shot had he not been injured. With Ondrej Palat ou...
Updated: 7 hours ago

NHL All-Star Game Skills Competition gets some changes

Skills Competition gets a new lookThe NHL switched up its format for Saturday’s All-Star Game Skills Competition (7 p.m, NBSCN). There will be six events, including the traditional hardest shot, accuracy shooting, plus a passing challenge, puck contr...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning’s Ondrej Palat to be out six to eight weeks

Lightning’s Ondrej Palat to be out six to eight weeks

The Lightning will be without Ondrej Palat six to eight weeks. And  Tampa Bay is still ticked by how Palat got hurt.The Wild's Jared Spurgeon slashed/speared the back of the Lightning wing's right ankle on a power play Saturday."It's a huge loss...
Published: 01/22/18
Matt Peca, Michael Bournival hope to spark Lightning

Matt Peca, Michael Bournival hope to spark Lightning

When Matt Peca had his best training camp with the Lightning back in September, coach Jon Cooper said he learned the 5-foot-9 forward was someone the Lightning would be able to count on at some point this season.Turns out, that time is now.Peca, 27, ...
Published: 01/22/18
Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

CHICAGO — It didn’t take the sound of a door slamming in the visitor’s dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated.Tampa Bay believed it had worked hard against the Wild — at least, harder than it did in Thursday’s letharg...
Published: 01/21/18
Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Best coverageThe best football broadcast I’ve ever seen was Super Bowl XLIII. That was NBC’s coverage of the Steelers’ last-minute victory over th...
Published: 01/21/18
Expansion Golden Knights pass Lightning for top spot in NHL

Expansion Golden Knights pass Lightning for top spot in NHL

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Golden Knights are giving Vegas a great odds-beating story in their first year.The expansion team has the whole league playing catchup.James Neal and Jonathan Marchessault scored to help Vegas beat the Hurricanes 5-1 on Sunday and...
Published: 01/21/18
What’s gone wrong with Lightning?

What’s gone wrong with Lightning?

It didn't take the sound of a door slamming in the dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated.Tampa Bay felt like it worked hard – at least, harder than Thursday's listless loss to Vegas – yet dropped another ...
Published: 01/21/18