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Lightning's Drouin scratched again, says no rift with Cooper (w/video)

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) and battles Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin  (27) for control in the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks in Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Saturday, June 6, 2015.
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) and battles Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) for control in the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks in Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Saturday, June 6, 2015.
Published Jun. 11, 2015

CHICAGO — There's no question that touted Lightning rookie LW Jonathan Drouin would love to have played more in the postseason.

It has been frustrating for Drouin, 20, to watch most of it from the press box, having played in just four games. He was a healthy scratch again for Wednesday's Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final against the Blackhawks.

But Drouin denied there's a rift between him and coach Jon Cooper, saying their relationship is good. A Toronto Sun story last week said Cooper normally "avoids talking to or making eye contact with Drouin," and that the coach "seemingly has no faith or belief in" the No. 3 overall draft pick of 2013.

"We have a good relationship; we talk a lot," Drouin said. "There's not bad blood towards each other. Everything's perfect."

Drouin said he understands the reasons behind Cooper not playing him. Drouin also said Cooper is "easy to talk to" when the player wants advice and has a good line of communication.

"As a player, you want to understand, you want to make sure you're doing the right things," Drouin said. "He wants you to get better."

Drouin said there are no secrets, and he knows where he stands. "It's pretty simple, not much stuff that's complicated about him," Drouin said. "Either you're in or you're not."

It looked like Drouin was in for Monday's Game 3. He even participated in a TV interview during warmups. But Drouin said he wasn't surprised to be scratched. He found out after warmups that the team was going with seven defensemen (and Nikita Nesterov) instead.

Asked if he has been satisfied with Cooper's explanations of why he has not been in games, Drouin said sitting has been tough.

"You ask any player, you're always disappointed," Drouin said. "You always want to be in there. But you look at our team, we're in the Stanley Cup final, so it's pretty hard to not understand what he's trying to say. … You've got to make sure you're okay with that."

STEPPING IN: With C Tyler Johnson appearing to be dealing with an undisclosed injury, LW Ondrej Palat has assumed an unfamiliar role: taking faceoffs.

Johnson entered Wednesday having taken just one draw in the previous two games. Palat, Johnson's "Triplets" linemate, went 8-for-17 in faceoffs in Game 3 on Monday. Palat, who took just 35 faceoffs in the regular season, said he has rarely played center, so it has been an adjustment, but he welcomed the challenge.

"It's good competition," he said. "When you're standing against (the Blackhawks' Jonathan) Toews and trying not to lose, it's fun. I would never say that three, four years ago."

ICE CHIPS: The Blackhawks shuffled their lineup — and lines — for Game 4, with veteran D Kimmo Timonen making his series debut. Forward Kris Versteeg also returned, with LW Bryan Bickell scratched. … The Lightning is flying back to Tampa today, scheduled to arrive around 2:30 p.m.