Lightning’s Cory Conacher hopes ‘simple’ leads to more ice time

The center wants to take advantage of the void in the lineup created when J.T. Brown was claimed off waivers by Anaheim.
Tampa Bay's Cory Conacher works to pounce on the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes during first period preseason action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. (DIRK SHADD |  Times)
Tampa Bay's Cory Conacher works to pounce on the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes during first period preseason action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Published Jan. 18, 2018|Updated Jan. 18, 2018

The loss of wing J.T. Brown to Anaheim will be a gain for some Lightning forwards in terms of ice time. Whether that player is currently with the team or still at AHL Syracuse has yet to be determined.

Center Cory Conacher, a healthy scratch in the Lightning's past three games, will try to take advantage of any opportunity that might come his way, beginning tonight when the Lightning returns from the five-day bye week against the visiting Vegas Golden Knights.

"For sure," Conacher said after the morning skate.

But Conacher (three goals, three assists in 17 games) understands Brown was placed on waivers last Saturday in an effort to create roster flexibility so GM Steve Yzerman can bring up some of the Crunch's top performers.

"I can't get too comfortable," Conacher said. "Obviously, there's guys battling down there in Syracuse for spots up here as well. So I just got to try and just play the same way. Take each day the same way. Come to practice ready to play and try to build chemistry with the guys I'm with. So, we'll see. If I'm in the lineup tonight I'll be giving it my all and doing whatever it takes to help my team win."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said it was tough see Brown leave the organization.

"Those are always tough. Especially J.T. has been with us a while," Cooper said. "As I said to him, you look at kind of the footprint of this team has made over the last couple years, especially our run to the Stanley Cup Final, and everybody thinks of the triplets and Stammer (Steve Stamkos), Fil (Valtteri Filppula) and Killer (Alex Killorn). But we really don't go anywhere without (Ryan) Callahan, Ceddy (Cedric Paquette) and Brownie.

"You think about how they just shut down lines all the way through our playoff run and how big they were for us. That's why it is sad to see guys go because it's just a little bit of turning the page on somebody that's been with you and you've had success with. He's a standup kid. I've got a lot of time for J.T. Brown and thanked him for everything he's done for us and wish him all the best. And that's one thing about the way the system is set up, This is a chance for him to go somewhere else and do some good. The only thing about these, I'm glad if these guys leave, they go to the West so we don't have to see them."

Back to Conacher, whose last name carries weight among longtime hockey fans.

Those guys battling down in Syracuse include left wing Adam Erne (12 goals/26 points in 39 games), center Matthew Peca (31 points in 40 games), left wing Alex Volkov (11 goals/24 points in 39 games) and center Carter Verhaeghe (8 goals/25 points in 27 games).

The Lightning did not bring up anyone from Syracuse for tonight's game, which bodes well for Conacher. The key to earning more time, he said, is to not press, to not try too hard.

"I just want to be hard on the forecheck, create turnovers and be simple in the D-zone," he said. "I just have to play simple. I think I just have to try and shot the puck a little more. I got in this league by shooting the puck, putting pucks on net and create offensive chances that way."