BRANDON — Veteran D Braydon Coburn, 30, said he might be able to return by Thursday's Game 1 against Detroit, giving a boost to the Lightning blueline.
"I think it's a possibility," Coburn said. "It's not a foregone conclusion yet. But I'm trying to get myself back to where if it's a possibility, I can step in."
Coburn, out since March 10 with a lower-body injury, has ramped up his skating late after practices in an effort to get his conditioning back. He said he feels close to 100 percent, and is not concerned his first game in a month will be a playoff game.
"It's still hockey," Coburn said. "I've been lucky enough to be in the playoffs before, I know what mind-set you have to get into. I'll definitely use that to my advantage."
Coach Jon Cooper said Coburn is '"really close," calling him probable/questionable for Thursday. The Lightning must feel somewhat confident in Coburn, and/or D Andrej Sustr (upper body) being available because it reassigned rookie D Luke Witkowski to AHL Syracuse Tuesday afternoon.
The Lightning acquired Coburn, 6 feet 5, 220 pounds, from the Flyers at the trade deadline, hoping he'd be a key piece for a playoff run. Coburn has played 72 career playoff games, including a run to the Stanley Cup final in 2010 with the Flyers. But he has been limited to just 43 games this season, four with the Lightning, because of injuries (he broke his left foot twice).
"That's a good thing," he says, "I'm very fresh."
When Coburn arrived in Tampa Bay, he stepped in with Jason Garrison to be a shutdown pairing against opposing teams' top lines. The Lightning was 4-0 in games Coburn played.
"We need him," Cooper said. "The four games he was here, we've gone through some clips and things, watching his game, he was a big asset to us. We're really looking forward to having him back."
HEAVY HEART: Cooper joined many in hockey Tuesday in mourning the loss of Senators assistant Mark Reeds, 55, who died of cancer.
It especially hit home for Cooper as he had just returned from Michigan after going to a funeral Monday for his father-in-law, Steve Novak, who died at age 62 "of the same exact thing."
Cooper got to know Reeds, a former Blues forward, while coaching for the St. Louis Bandits in the NAHL 2006-08.
"It's just a sad day," Cooper said. "It makes you sick to your stomach to think about it. All those loved ones (Reed) left behind, to go at such a young age. It's tough. I'm just speechless."
ICE CHIPS: The Lightning is scheduled to practice at 11 a.m. today at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon; Detroit at 11:30 a.m.
Contact Joe Smith at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.