Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

Valtteri Filppula likely out for Lightning's whole road trip

TORONTO — The Lightning got some good — and bad — news on the injury front Tuesday.

RW Nikita Kucherov was back in the lineup after leaving midway through Sunday's game due to a sucker punch by Columbus' Dalton Prout. But C Valtteri Filppula, who suffered an upper-body injury in the first period Sunday, was out Tuesday and probably will miss the rest of this four-game road trip, coach Jon Cooper said.

"I'm not sure how long it's going to be," Cooper said. "But it may be longer than day to day, that's the concerning thing."

Prout's out: The fact that Kucherov is fine partly played into the NHL Department of Player Safety's decision to suspend Prout just one game. So did Prout's clean record, this his first suspension or fine in his 197-game NHL career.

NDPS director Patrick Burke said in an explanation that Kucherov was "in no way engaged with Prout" and was "unsuspecting" when he received a "forceful punch." Burke said Prout's argument in a phone hearing was that he was defending his teammate. But Burke said this action wasn't an acceptable way of doing so.

"This is not a situation in which two players were squaring off in confrontation," Burke said. "In fact, no reasonable player could or should anticipate being punched in this manner."

Homecoming: Usually, when Lightning captain Steven Stamkos returns to his hometown of Toronto, it can be a bit stressful.

There's all the hoopla and speculation surrounding Stamkos potentially signing with the Maple Leafs if he hits unrestricted free agency July 1. For example, a story on the front of the Toronto Sun sports section Tuesday had the headline "Leafs actually attractive landing spot," with "plenty to offer" the likes of Stamkos.

But this trip still had a different feel. The two previous stops in Toronto this season were rushed on the back of a back-to-back for Tampa Bay, Stamkos got to spend Monday's off day at his parents house, visiting with family and eating a home-cooked meal. He joked he was a bit bored.

"It was nice and relaxing," he said. "A peaceful day."

Lining up: RW Mike Blunden, recalled Saturday, played for the second straight game, and will likely stay until C Cedric Paquette (lower body) is ready. Paquette participated in the morning skate, saying he felt decent and hoped to return on this trip. The Lightning went with 11 forwards again, with RW Erik Condra a healthy scratch. G Andrei Vasilevskiy made his fourth start of the season against the Maple Leafs.

Nuts and bolts: GM Steve Yzerman told Canada's SportsNet Tuesday at the GM meetings in Boca Raton that RW Jonathan Drouin looked "pretty good" last weekend for AHL Syracuse considering he hadn't played a game in six weeks. As for a potential callup, Yzerman reiterated he'd do what's best for the Lightning "to get into the playoffs and win in the playoffs."

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

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