ST. PAUL, Minn. — After wings J.T. Brown and Brett Connolly got hurt early in Friday's game, coach Jon Cooper turned to assistant Steve Thomas, a former longtime NHL wing.
"I said, 'You better lace them up, kid,' " Cooper said. " 'We may be turning back the clock.' "
It has almost come to that for the injury-depleted Lightning. With Cooper saying Brown (upper body) is day to day and Connolly (lower body) week to week, Tampa Bay brought in reinforcements Saturday, recalling forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Mike Blunden from AHL Syracuse. For Blunden, who played Tuesday in Calgary, it was his second callup in a week. C Cedric Paquette came up for Friday's game in Winnipeg.
It continued the constant roster shuffling by the Lightning, which had lost three other regulars entering Saturday night's game against Minnesota that ended a five-game, 10-day trip: D Victor Hedman (4-6 weeks, fractured finger), RW Ryan Callahan (week to week, lower body) and LW Alex Killorn (day to day, upper body). Callahan and Killorn were placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Monday. Hedman was placed on long-term injured reserve, freeing up salary cap space for the callups.
But despite the injuries, which forced the Lightning to play shorthanded for a lot of the games, Tampa Bay won three of the first four on the trip.
"A lot really has not fazed the group," Cooper said. "You really haven't heard anybody talk about guys getting hurt or 'Oh, poor us.' Guys have been pretty resilient. It's good to see, especially being tested this early in the season."
Part of the resiliency has been the result of strong goaltending by Ben Bishop and backup Evgeni Nabokov, with Saturday's loss an exception. Nabokov was pulled in the first period after allowing four goals on eight shots. The Lightning entered Saturday ranked sixth in power play (26.7 percent) and eighth in penalty kill (86.7 percent). Cooper likes how the Lightning usually bends but doesn't break defensively.
The resiliency also illustrates the depth the organization has, with some of training camp's final cuts — Marchessault, Paquette and D Luke Witkowski — already getting callups.
Paquette and Marchessault played with C Vladislav Namestnikov on Saturday, the same trio that impressed in the preseason. Blunden joined veterans C Brian Boyle and LW Brenden Morrow.
"Me, Paquette and Blunden started in Syracuse, but we're doing good, and we got the opportunity to show the organization that we still are the guys (who) would be able to do good things," Marchessault said. "We've just got to keep going."
ICE CHIPS: Cooper said Killorn is close to returning, potentially when Tampa Bay opens a four-game homestand Tuesday against Arizona. … The team was scheduled to be off today. … Boyle played in his 400th career game Saturday, D Radko Gudas in his 100th. … D Mark Barberio was also scratched.
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MINOR MATTERS: LW prospect Adam Erne entered Saturday with six goals, seven points in his previous two games thanks to back-to-back hat tricks and had 10 goals, 17 points in nine games for Quebec in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.