BUFFALO, N.Y. — Lightning coach Jon Cooper never misses an opportunity to praise RW Tom Pyatt.
Cooper says he loves Pyatt's versatility — that he can play center if needed, that he has won 50.3 percent of his faceoffs. Pyatt also has chipped in three goals and seven points, and takes a turn on the penalty kill while averaging just 11:27 of ice time.
But Pyatt cannot find a consistent place in the lineup and Saturday against the Sabres was scratched for the third time in five games and 19th time this season. Counting the two months he missed with a broken collarbone, Pyatt has played in just 23 games.
"It's tough," Pyatt said. "There are days you feel good, but it's tough to come to the rink sometimes. It's up and down. That's the way an NHL season is. It's never smooth sailing."
Pyatt, 5 feet 11, 188 pounds, said Cooper has told him he has done nothing wrong: "They tell me it's not my game."
And that makes his exclusion from the lineup that much more of a mystery.
"Tom Pyatt, he's been great. He fills holes for us in certain ways," Cooper said. "But on the other hand, he can be a certain fit against some teams, and we've got other guys who are a different fit against other teams."
Cooper hinted Pyatt might play today at Detroit, though Pyatt sounded as if he would believe it when it happened.
"It's frustrating," he said. "I just try to stay positive and be ready."
STICKING WITH IT: Cooper has kept rookie RW J.T. Brown in the lineup despite his 34-game goalless streak entering Saturday. "I'd be hard-pressed to say anybody has outworked J.T. Brown in a hockey game or done a lot of the dirty-work kind of things 'Brownie' does," Cooper said. "We're not measuring J.T. Brown in goals. … He makes other guys better. He's one of those guys with his work ethic and puck retrievals, and how he won't back down from anybody, his tenacity. He helps lines."
He helped Steven Stamkos score against Buffalo with a strong forecheck behind the goal line and by retrieving a puck he had passed to the captain.
"If you're not scoring, do something else, whether it's blocking shots, the penalty kill, forecheck hard," said Brown, who entered the game with four goals, 17 points in 53 games. "There's plenty of other things I'm trying to do instead of focusing on I'm not scoring."
HOMECOMING: RW Ryan Callahan, from nearby Rochester, N.Y., had about 20 family members and friends at the game. And though he has played in Buffalo many times before, he said it still is "fun and exciting." He also reiterated how comfortable he has been in Tampa since the March 5 trade from the Rangers for Marty St. Louis. "I'm extremely happy here," he said. "I couldn't have come to a better place."
ODDS AND ENDS: In a pregame ceremony, G Dominik Hasek was inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame. … Lightning C Valtteri Filppula has an 11-game points streak (four goals, 11 assists), the league's longest active. … Forwards Richard Panik and Cody Kunyk, and defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio also were scratched.