Saturday, May 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tom Pyatt a loser in Lightning numbers game

TAMPA — Tom Pyatt said before Saturday's game with the Stars at the Tampa Bay Times Forum that he believed he was going to play.

"As far as I know," the Lightning forward said after the morning skate.

Instead, Pyatt was a healthy scratch, another disappointment during a season in which all he really has known is frustration.

"It's not the year I wanted to have," Pyatt said. "It's not the season I envisioned."

Pyatt, 27, has played just 24 of Tampa Bay's 78 games. Part of that is understandable; he missed 32 games from Oct. 10 through Dec. 19 because of a broken collarbone.

But part of Pyatt's absence from the lineup is a bit of a mystery. A healthy scratch in 22 of the 46 games in which he has been available — and in six of the past nine — he has not heard a discouraging word from the coaches.

In fact, associate coach Rick Bowness said, "He's played very well. He's done what we've asked him to do. He's taken faceoffs. He's played wing. He's killed penalties. Has he played his way out of the lineup? No, he hasn't."

Pyatt has three goals and seven points, is an even plus-minus and has won 50.3 percent of his faceoffs, not bad considering that his intermittent play and smallish 11:23 of average ice time does not allow him to find any kind of rhythm.

This is a player who in 2011-12 had 12 goals in 74 games. He had eight goals in 43 games in lockout-shortened 2012-13. Extrapolate that over a full 82-game schedule and Pyatt gets 15.

"You're up and down. Your excitement is up and down, your enthusiasm," Pyatt said. "You want to play your best, but when you're in and out, it makes it tough sometimes. But that's the way it is. When you get the call, you've just got to do your best, to get pumped up and play well."

"It's such a tough situation," captain Steven Stamkos said. "There's always guys on the team who have to go through that way. What makes it even tougher in this situation is the quality of the person that he is, his work ethic and his skill."

So what is it? What has kept Pyatt out of the lineup?

At 5 feet 11, 188 pounds, he is not big, but he's not out of place on a team with six forwards under 6 feet.

His ability, desire, speed? No.

"It's a numbers game," Bowness said. "He sits because of the numbers, not based on his play."

Tampa Bay currently has 15 forwards on the roster, and coach Jon Cooper likes to play 11 at times instead of the usual 12. The organization also is grooming rookies such as J.T. Brown and Nikita Kucherov. Even struggling Richard Panik, with two goals and minus-11, has 46 games.

It's not the most reassuring situation for Pyatt, who is in the final year of his contract.

"It's tough to go to a player, 'Gee, I really like the way you're playing, no complaints, but you're not playing tonight,' '' Bowness said

"All I can do is play well when I get in," Pyatt said. "Just stay positive. I know how to play the game. Just do my thing and things will work out."

GUDAS HIT: No supplemental discipline is expected for defenseman Radko Gudas for his hit on the Stars' Antoine Roussel, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said.

Gudas in the first period of Saturday's 5-2 loss received a five-minute major and a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head. Match penalties trigger an automatic league review.

MINOR MOVE: Forward Henri Ikonen, drafted 154th overall in 2013, signed a three-year, entry-level deal and will report to AHL Syracuse. Ikonen, 19, had 25 goals and 70 points in 54 games this season for Kingston of the Ontario junior league and played for Finland at this year's world junior championship.

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