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Lightning begins preparations for Red Wings

Valtteri Filppula joined the Lightning last season after seven seasons with the Red Wings, Tampa Bay’s first-round foe.
Valtteri Filppula joined the Lightning last season after seven seasons with the Red Wings, Tampa Bay’s first-round foe.
Published Apr. 14, 2015

BRANDON — Valtteri Filppula likely knows the Red Wings better than any other Lightning player.

Filppula, 31, spent his first seven NHL seasons in Detroit and hoisted the 2008 Stanley Cup with some of the same players he'll face in the first-round series that starts Thursday.

While the forward believes the Red Wings will be a threat, considering their experience and ability to turn it on come postseason time, he knows one other thing.

"We should feel pretty confident, too," he said.

The Lightning won three of four matchups with the Red Wings this season, and seven of the past nine. While none of that matters in the playoffs — the Lightning was swept by Montreal last April after going 3-0-1 in the regular season — it does garner confidence.

"This team, I think, we match well up against," defenseman Matt Carle said. "Both teams like to skate, both teams like to have the puck. It should be fun games to play, an exciting series."

The Lightning began preparation during Monday's practice at the Ice Sports Forum. It focused on sharp breakouts considering the pressure Detroit puts on during its forecheck and in the neutral zone.

Associate coach Rick Bowness talked about how disciplined Tampa Bay has to be considering the Red Wings power play is second in the league at 23.8 percent, sparked by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. But Bowness made one thing clear: As much as the Lightning will prepare for Detroit's tendencies, it won't lose sight of its own game.

"The most important team going into this is us, how we play, what we have to do, how we have to play to be successful," Bowness said. "So never take the focus off of us."

The Lightning is closer to full strength, with Alex Killorn (undisclosed injury) practicing in a regular jersey Monday, rejoining Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan on the top line. Killorn believes he'll be "100 percent" by Thursday's Game 1. Rookie Jonathan Drouin, who missed Saturday's game with an illness, was back. Defenseman Andrej Sustr (upper body), still in a red (no-contact) jersey, practiced fully and hopes to be ready by Thursday. Jason Garrison (upper body) might not come back until next week. He and Sustr were hurt March 28 in a 4-0 loss to the Red Wings, the only time Tampa Bay was shut out this season.

The Lightning didn't play particularly well that day, with Carle believing it got Detroit's "best game." It certainly was a confidence builder for Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek, 23, who got the nod over All-Star Jimmy Howard for the Game 1 start, his first postseason experience. The Red Wings could also get Justin Abdelkader (hand) back.

"The last time we played them, they owned us," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We've had a little success against them early on, but really the games have been tight. They have a hell of a team. They've been in the playoffs 24 straight years. They have young guys, they have veterans, they have guys that have won Cups. This will be a battle."

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ICE CHIPS: Bowness thoroughly enjoyed his Sunday trip to the Masters with sons Ricky and Ryan, a gift from the Lightning for him coaching in his 2,000th game in February. "If I exaggerated, it wouldn't do it justice," he said. "It was incredible, overwhelming experience, one I'll never forget."

Contact Joe Smith at Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.