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Tyler Johnson rounds into form for Lightning training camp

Tyler Johnson, who broke his right wrist in June’s Stanley Cup final, says it’s still healing a week before training camp.
Tyler Johnson, who broke his right wrist in June’s Stanley Cup final, says it’s still healing a week before training camp.
Published Sep. 10, 2015

BRANDON — Lightning center Tyler Johnson joined "Triplets" linemates Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov for informal workouts Wednesday and looked like his old self.

Johnson, 25, was buzzing around the ice, participating in all the drills, looking comfortable taking wrist shots. It was an encouraging sign considering Johnson broke his right wrist in Game 1 of last season's Stanley Cup final, an injury that severely hampered his play the rest of the way in the six-game loss to the Blackhawks.

Johnson said that after some "creative" workouts this summer in Spokane, Wash., he's feeling good with one week remaining until training camp.

"It's progressing," Johnson said of the wrist. "I don't know if I'd say it's 100 percent, but it's getting there."

When asked if he'd be limited during the preseason, Johnson said, "I sure hope not. You never know what can happen in two weeks, though."

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Lightning ease Johnson into training camp, considering how important the All-Star is to the team's goal of returning to the Stanley Cup final. Johnson, tied for the team lead with Steven Stamkos with 72 points last season, tied Chicago's Patrick Kane for the NHL lead in playoff scoring with 23 points and led the league alone with 13 goals.

Johnson, who had his wrist brace removed in mid August, has been doing only stick work for a couple of weeks and is taking it slowly when it comes to shooting. So the Lightning could limit how much exhibition action he gets, with the goal of being ready for the Oct. 8 season opener against the Flyers. It's not like Johnson needs to gain chemistry with his linemates.

"I'm slowly getting into things, not trying to push it," Johnson said. "I'm doing what feels right and going from there."

Johnson was garnering playoff MVP consideration for his postseason heroics but became limited after hurting the wrist landing on the ice after a hit by Chicago's Brent Seabrook. Johnson stopped taking faceoffs and was held to two points in the six games. He said the possibility of him missing a game was discussed but only briefly.

"There's no way I would sit out a Stanley Cup game," he said.

"It's tough. You get to that part of the season, it's the Stanley Cup final, you think about it your entire life, and you're not necessarily 100 percent. But the thing is, no one is when you get that far in the playoffs. It was a true lesson to learn you have to play through it. Unfortunately for me, I was a little worse than some. But I wish I still would have been able to find a way."

Johnson said the Lightning medical staff tried everything to make his wrist comfortable, including different casts, medicines and treatments. Unfortunately, he said, the best mix was found later in the final, but "it was a little too late."

Johnson got creative with his training during his shorter summer, skating less but spending more time in the gym than he ever had, trying to keep up conditioning and strength without using the wrist. There was plenty of pool work, too.

"It feels better every day," he said.

IF YOU GO: The Lightning prospects, who will compete in a tournament this weekend in Estero, were scheduled to practice at 1 p.m. today and at 11 a.m. Friday in Brandon at the Ice Sports Forum. The regulars were scheduled to skate at 11 a.m. today and 10 a.m. Friday.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.