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Lightning’s Mitchell Stephens makes his NHL debut

Tyler Johnson is out against the Islanders and likely to miss the Lightning’s ‘next couple games’
Tampa Bay Lightning Mitchell Stephens (67), making his NHL debut, worse to control the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (3) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Tampa Bay Lightning Mitchell Stephens (67), making his NHL debut, worse to control the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (3) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 9, 2019
Updated Dec. 10, 2019

TAMPA — There’s a new Lightning player in town. Mitchell Stephens earned his first NHL call up and made his debut Monday.

This opportunity for Stephens comes with Tyler Johnson out of the lineup. He did not play in the third period of Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win Saturday over San Jose and was seen in a walking boot after the game. Coach Jon Cooper said Johnson was getting checked out Monday and will probably miss the next couple of games.

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Stephens was excited. Even just being on the ice for morning skate and leading the stretch circle before an NHL game was cool for the 22-year-old forward.

In 24 AHL games this season, Stephens has five goals and 10 points. He has been playing with Danick Martel, who played nine games with the Lightning last year, and Alex Barre-Boulet, Syracuse’s leading scorer. Stephens said his line has been generating success through their speed. He wants to bring that speed on the forecheck to his NHL game.

“One thing he’s blessed with is the ability to skate,” Cooper said. “In all the exhibition games he’s played, that has been something that has really helped him and us. If he just has that going tonight, that’s an asset."

Cory Conacher was also recalled on Monday. He has now been recalled five times in the past 41 days. At least he got in the lineup this time, which wasn’t the case on the previous two recalls.

Mathieu Joseph and Jan Rutta were the healthy scratches, for a team that has not had many of those recently. Braydon Coburn, who is progressing but still week-to-week with a lower-body injury, has been moved to the IR to make roster space.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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