NEW YORK — Looking to enhance and even quicken the development of Brett Connolly, the Lightning will allow the rookie right wing to play for Canada at the world junior championship, Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Calgary and Edmonton.
The decision was not made lightly, GM Steve Yzerman said Thursday. Connolly, 19, has played in all 28 Lightning games and has four goals and eight points. But his ice time has diminished — he played four straight games entering Thursday without reaching his 12:41 average — and has just one assist in nine games.
"I don't see it as a step back," Yzerman said. "It's important for these young guys to play in these big events in pressure games. They make you better. We still want him here, but what's best for Brett Connolly in the long run is best for us all. I'm confident this is the right thing for him."
Connolly, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2010 draft, will attend Canada's selection camp starting Saturday. He played in the 2011 event, in which Canada lost to Russia in the gold-medal game, and called it an experience he won't forget.
Now, Yzerman said, "he gets to go there and be one of the leaders who is counted on to set the example, and be the guy the coaches and players look to to make a difference. In the long run, that's great for him. You look at some of the kids who come out of these tournaments, they're better players."
Connolly will return after the world championship.
MEDICAL MATTERS: D Pavel Kubina (lower body) skated with the team Thursday morning but missed his third straight game. … C Nate Thompson was out with an upper-body injury.
ODDS AND ENDS: RW Adam Hall said he used two games as a scratch as a "motivational tool." … D Evan Oberg was scratched.