Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tyler Johnson likely a go for Lightning opener (w/ video)

TAMPA — C Tyler Johnson returned to practice Wednesday morning and is expected to play in tonight's season opener.

"I feel good," he said. "Ready to play."

Johnson suffered an undisclosed injury in the second period of Saturday's exhibition finale against the Panthers and did not practice Monday. Johnson declined to elaborate on the injury, indicating that it won't linger.

"Nothing is bothering me," he said with a smile.

The Lightning will be at full strength against the Flyers, with coach Jon Cooper saying LW Alex Killorn (undisclosed), RW Nikita Kucherov (lower body) are good to go. Cooper said conditioning is the only concern with C Cedric Paquette (left foot), who rotated in on the fourth line in Wednesday's skate. Paquette said he's feeling better each day but will have to deal with discomfort for the time being.

"It's a bad spot to get hit, I'll have some pain," he said. "But it's something I can play with."

MADE IT: G Kevin Poulin would have started this season with the Islanders' AHL affiliate Bridgeport had the Lightning not claimed him off waivers Sept. 27. So Poulin, 25, was happy that, after some uncertainty, he made the team as the temporary backup to G Ben Bishop.

"I really didn't know," Poulin said. "I didn't have a phone call (Tuesday), so I figured I was good."

ON CALL: While D Luke Witkowski and D Slater Koekkoek will start the season with AHL Syracuse, they impressed in camp and are expected to help the Lightning this season.

"They're close," GM Steve Yzerman said. "If we wanted to we could have kept them on this team. They're better off playing a lot of minutes in the American Hockey League."

PITCHING IN: Rays pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore skated in full gear with the Lightning after practice, gaining appreciation for the sport's difficulty. "It's probably a lot like golf," Moore said. "If you don't play hockey by the age of 25, don't start."

Joked Johnson: "I think they should probably stick to baseball."

Rays 3B Evan Longoria will serve as "Bolts Social (Media) Captain" for tonight's opener. Several Lightning players took batting practice at the Trop in June, with Rays RHP Alex Cobb also skating after practice last season.

"You just give them the same advice I give my 5-year-old," Cooper said. "Bend your legs, (butt) out, hope you don't fall."

WELCOME BACK: Tonight's opener is sold out, with a brief Eastern Conference banner unveiling before a 7:40 p.m. puck drop. The Prince of Wales Trophy will be on the plaza before the game. "It's going to be off the charts," C Steven Stamkos said.

NUTS AND BOLTS: Even with Stamkos opening the final season of his current deal without an extension, there is no set deadline for talks to be cut off. … Cooper said RW Ryan Callahan will wear a permanent "A" this season, with the other alternate captain likely rotating. … Former Lightning C Vinny Lecavalier and D Radko Gudas are expected to be healthy scratches for the Flyers tonight.

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

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