Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Mystery over Tyler Johnson's early exit

WASHINGTON — The frustrating season for C Tyler Johnson continues.

Johnson left the Lightning's 4-2 loss to the Capitals on Friday for undisclosed reasons after playing one shift, the opening 48 seconds. Johnson had just returned to the lineup Wednesday against the Kings after missing three games with an upper-body injury.

"That's tough," coach Jon Cooper said, "to get 48 seconds out of him."

Cooper said he didn't see what happened to Johnson and was surprised when told the center would not return. Cooper didn't want to speculate on Johnson's status for tonight's game against the Islanders.

Depending on the availability of C Cedric Paquette (upper body) and LW Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed), who each missed his fifth consecutive game, the Lightning could make a callup from AHL Syracuse. Cooper said Tampa Bay could also go with seven defensemen, inserting Luke Witkowski.

"We'll see (today)," Cooper said.

Johnson, who had 29 goals in his All-Star season last year, has four in his first 21 games, including one Wednesday.

TOUGH CALL: When Jonathan Marchessault made a strong bid for a roster spot in training camp, Cooper said the 5-foot-9 forward had transformed from a "wild card" to "a bona fide NHLer knocking at the door."

Marchessault, 24, may have knocked down the door during his latest callup, making for a difficult decision soon for Tampa Bay.

The Lightning was able to sneak Marchessault through waivers in early October after he was one of the final camp cuts. That might be tougher to do after Marchessault's all-around play in the past five games; he has a goal (plus a shootout goal), an assist and 12 shots. Marchessault played a career-high 14 minutes, 58 seconds Friday and was inserted on the first power-play unit.

"Every game he gets a chance, or he helps someone get a chance," Cooper said.

Once Marchessault either plays in 10 NHL games this season (Friday made seven) or spends 30 days in the NHL, he must clear waivers again to get reassigned to Syracuse. With Johnson's injury, Marchessault is likely to stay up for the time being.

Drouin and Paquette are closer to returning. LW Ondrej Palat (left ankle) is at the three-week mark of his three- to five-week recovery period. Even by sending LW Joel Vermin down, keeping Marchessault with the three returning regulars would give the Lightning 14 forwards, assuming Johnson's injury is minor.

Marchessault has shown he can play in the NHL. "He can kind of do it all," Johnson said. "He can be on a checking line; he can be on a scoring line. He's a complete player."

NUTS & BOLTS: Vermin was back in the lineup, with Witkowski scratched, as the Lightning went back to a 12 forwards-six defensemen alignment. … RW J.T. Brown picked up an assist, giving him five in his past six games. … D Victor Hedman had a team-high five shots. … D Anton Stralman played in his 500th career NHL game. … D Anthony DeAngelo, the Lightning's 2014 first-round draft pick, returned to the Syracuse lineup after being a healthy scratch Wednesday.

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