DETROIT — Who would have thought that captain Steven Stamkos might return before Tyler Johnson?
While Stamkos continues to skate with the Lightning in hopes of coming back from mid-November knee surgery, Johnson still doesn't appear close to returning from a lower-body injury suffered March 9.
Johnson hasn't even been skating on his own. Asked Friday if the center would return in the final eight games of the regular season after that night's 2-1 overtime win against the Red Wings, coach Jon Cooper said, "I don't know."
For the record, Stamkos isn't sure if he'll be back, either. Stamkos and Johnson did travel with the Lightning on the past few road trips.
"The injury has been tough for (Johnson), tough on all of us," Cooper said. "I hope he keeps progressing, but it's been slow so far."
D Jason Garrison missed Friday's game and was considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday. But considering Garrison had to be helped off the ice in the second period Thursday against the Bruins and couldn't put weight on one of his legs, it was encouraging he was walking around Friday without a noticeable limp. Cooper said he didn't know when Garrison would be back. The Lightning's next game is Monday against Chicago in Tampa.
Why no Koekkoek?
D Slater Koekkoek got a much-anticipated callup from AHL Syracuse on Friday morning, but he didn't play. Here's why: The Lightning has used its four allotted post-trade-deadline recalls. Koekkoek was an emergency recall, with D Jason Garrison's injury and a few other Lightning players banged up, coach Jon Cooper said. But because the unidentified injured players were fine and the Lightning technically had another defenseman available (Luke Witkowski), Koekkoek wasn't needed. Witkowski slid into Garrison's spot, and F Greg McKegg, a healthy scratch Thursday against the Bruins, was inserted into the lineup. And Koekkoek was returned to Syracuse after the game.
Rookie Adam Erne added another first Friday, getting into his first NHL fight late in the first period. Erne's bout with Red Wings C Andreas Athanasiou got Joe Louis Arena rocking, and the Lightning wing took a few good shots. Erne, who has had seven AHL fights, held his own.
Number of the day
10 Players who were in the Lightning lineup the last time it was in Detroit (Nov. 15) who weren't in the lineup Friday (Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, Jason Garrison, Ben Bishop, Nikita Nesterov, Cedric Paquette, Tyler Johnson, Slater Koekkoek, Brian Boyle, Valtteri Filppula).
• This was the house of horrors road trip for captain Steven Stamkos, who returned Thursday to Boston, where he broke a leg in 2013, and Friday to Detroit, where he tore his lateral meniscus Nov. 15.
• Friday's final trip to Joe Louis Arena was nostalgic for me, having grown up outside Detroit attended Red Wings games as a kid. I covered college hockey tournaments at Joe Louis, too, not to mention memorable Lightning playoff rounds.