Saturday, July 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Tyler Johnson practices, uncertain for playoff opener

BRANDON — Lightning C Tyler Johnson returned to practice Tuesday, skating for the first time since his head hit the boards after a late shove in Saturday's season finale at Montreal. While he was glad to be back on the ice, he stopped short of saying he'll be able to go in tonight's playoff opener against the Red Wings.

"I feel pretty good, getting better every day," Johnson said after practice at the Brandon Ice Forum. "That's all that really matters. … I'm still trying to decide, so I'll talk with the coaching staff, see how I feel (today). I felt okay. There's things I want to feel better for, so we'll see how it goes."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper reiterated that Johnson will be a game-time decision, so while he's happy to have him back at practice, they'll monitor his progress leading up to the home game.

"He looked pretty good. We'll see how he feels," Cooper said. "It's going to be up to him and the doctors if he can go."

Asked about the nature of the hit from Montreal's Greg Pateryn — after the whistle and behind the Canadiens' goal, sending him into the boards — Johnson said, "It doesn't do me any good to comment." Asked about the encouraging quick return, he had only two words: "It's playoffs."

The Lightning has gotten several key players back from injuries late in the regular season, with defenseman Victor Hedman and forwards Ryan Callahan and Nikita Kucherov back at practice Monday and cleared to return against Detroit.

POWER SHIFT: When the Lightning worked on the power play in practice, the top line saw defenseman Jason Garrison alongside Hedman, a new look to go with newly promoted Jonathan Drouin's addition. Tampa Bay's power play has struggled, converting just 15.8 percent of its opportunities, the third-worst rate in the NHL.

"Power play is such a big part of the game," said Garrison, who played on the power-play unit when he was with the Panthers. "Whenever you're out there and get the opportunity, you want to make sure you give it your all and communicate and make sure everybody's on the same page."

THIS AND THAT: Nearly all the Lightning players have playoff experience from last season, but not all. F Mike Blunden has played in a single playoff game, logging eight minutes with Montreal in 2013 as the Canadiens were eliminated in a 6-1 loss to Ottawa. … RW Erik Condra, who could make his Lightning playoff debut, has played in 23 playoff games for the Senators, including the series against Blunden's Canadiens. … D Matt Taormina has played in parts of five NHL seasons but hasn't played in a playoff game.

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] or (813) 226-3346. Follow @GregAuman.

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