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Valtteri Filppula close to return for Lightning

Lightning center Valtteri Filppula, center, has been out of the lineup since last week’s game against Columbus with an upper-body injury. He participated in Saturday morning’s skate.
Lightning center Valtteri Filppula, center, has been out of the lineup since last week’s game against Columbus with an upper-body injury. He participated in Saturday morning’s skate.
Published Mar. 20, 2016

GLENDALE, Ariz. — C Valtteri Filppula might be back sooner than anticipated.

Filppula, who missed his third consecutive game with an upper-body injury, participated in Saturday's morning skate, albeit in a red no-contact jersey.

While coach Jon Cooper said Filppula won't play Tuesday against the Red Wings, he could return by next weekend's back-to-back Friday and Saturday.

"It's encouraging to see him out there," Cooper said. "Baby steps, but we thought it might be weeks away and now maybe it's not going to be that."

Filppula suffered the undisclosed injury in the first period of Sunday's 4-0 win over Columbus. He said it happened on an ordinary play that "happens every game." He also skated on Friday's off day. While Filppula admits he still doesn't feel great, it was a "big step" to be back on the ice.

"It's tough, at least for me, it's the first time (for) this kind of stuff," Filppula said. "I don't really know how long it's going to be, but definitely it's nice for my head to be able to get out there and spend some time with the guys on the ice. So it's nice, hopefully I'm not too far away."

Medical matters: RW Ryan Callahan also didn't play Saturday, dealing with an undisclosed injury. Callahan appeared to get shaken up blocking a shot Thursday, but didn't miss a shift.

C Cedric Paquette (illness) was a game-time decision, but played. Cooper said a flu bug is going around again. RW Jonathan Marchessault took Callahan's spot on the line with LW Ondrej Palat and C Tyler Johnson. RW Mike Blunden was a healthy scratch as the team went with seven defensemen.

Break time: Cooper's decision to cancel Friday's practice at the last minute was partly due to his sense the team needed a mental break. So after a meeting, players were sent off to enjoy an off day.

"It was overwhelmingly we needed a little rest here," Cooper said. "So in some of these situations, you got to listen to your players."

On point: C Brian Boyle, and his 6-foot-7 frame, has given a boost to the power play, which snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a goal Thursday.

Boyle hasn't spent much time on the power play in his two seasons with the Lightning but he has experience, scoring 16 power-play goals in his first year with Manchester of the American Hockey League in 2007-08. He had five power-play goals in five seasons with the Rangers.

"I love it," Boyle said. "I want to help, as long as we're shooting pucks, it gives me an opportunity to have an impact. It takes five guys, it's a privilege to be on it and if I'm on it I'm going to do everything I can to stay on it and help it succeed."

Nuts and bolts: G Ben Bishop started. … RW Jonathan Drouin has three goals and one assist in five games for AHL Syracuse since his return.

Jersey time: The Lightning will auction off select game-worn jerseys from the 2014-15 season and playoffs (not Stanley Cup final) Thursday through Monday at 5 p.m. Go to auctions.nhl.com to view the auction and bid.

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

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