TAMPA — Is Richard Panik at a bit of a crossroads?
The Lightning's rookie right wing said Thursday that he has lost some confidence with all that has gone on recently: his inconsistent play, being scratched for two games and being suspended by the league Wednesday for two games for his from-behind hit on Washington's Karl Alzner.
"Yeah, of course," Panik said, when asked if his confidence has lowered. "But I'm just going to practice and focus and do things right and get back to good habits. Hopefully I'll be better every day."
"Probably frustrated is the word," coach Jon Cooper said, describing Panik's state of mind. "I think he's going through a little bit of humble pie right now."
Panik, 23, is eligible to return from his suspension Sunday at Detroit. At that point, including his scratches, he will have sat out four of five games. He has one goal and 10 points and is minus-7 in 27 games. More concerning for Cooper is Panik's 29 shots on goal.
"I'd say he's got the top three shots on our team," Cooper said. "To have under 30 shots from a guy who gets a fair amount of ice time and gets put in those situations, he's got to be better at that. When he gets better at that, he'll be back in the lineup."
For Panik, his struggles with inconsistency are similar to those of his first pro season, 2011-12 with AHL Norfolk, when he also watched some from the press box.
Panik rebounded for 19 goals and 41 points in 64 games, and Cooper, who coached Panik at Norfolk then and last season at Syracuse, said, "Richard is a big part of our team, our growth and our future. I'm not worried about Richard Panik not coming back."
"You sit our four of five games," Cooper said, "you get a pretty good indication of what you need to do to get back in."
MEDICAL MATTERS: D Victor Hedman "unfortunately" has not made much progress overcoming a lower-body injury that has kept him out of three games, Cooper said. He is out at least another week. … LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie said he did not skate Tuesday before the Capitals game because of a strep throat that caused him to spit up blood. Labrie (left arm/elbow) said he should be ready by the weekend.
OLD FRIENDS: Though C Valtteri Filppula previously had played against his former team, Nov. 9 at Detroit, he said facing the Red Wings "is going to be a little weird for a while."
REVVING UP: Cooper hoped putting Teddy Purcell on a line with Filppula and Alex Killorn would kick-start the right wing. And perhaps it did. Though Purcell has three goals in 25 games, he played against the Capitals what Cooper called perhaps his best game of the season, "definitely his best game in a month."
Purcell had an assist, three shots and three takeaways against Washington. He had three shots Thursday against the Red Wings.
"Now," Cooper said, "it's just, okay, take that and hit replay."
ODDS AND ENDS: Tampa Bay is 12-3-1 at home and 4-1 in shootouts. … The Red Wings have lost 11 straight shootouts: 0-6 this season, 0-5 last season. Detroit also has lost nine straight overtime or shootout games this season. … The Lightning played with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. … There were no healthy scratches.