TAMPA — Given four days to “regain some confidence” as coach Jon Cooper said, Mathieu Joseph was recalled Monday morning ahead of Tampa Bay’s matchup against the Florida Panthers.
Tyler Johnson did not skate Monday and was limping after Saturday’s game. Cooper said the forward will not be available for the matchup against the Panthers. Needing another forward in the lineup may have contributed to Joseph’s quick return.
“We just gave him off tonight and then a few days here during the break,” Cooper said Monday morning. “He just kept re-aggravating injuries so a few days rest here will do him well.”
Joseph was assigned to the AHL Thursday and played in two games with the Syracuse Crunch, and notched a goal in Saturday’s 5-2 win against the Binghamton Senators.
In 31 games this season, Joseph has only scored four goals and logged three assists. Through 31 games last season, the 22-year-old forward had nine goals and four assists.
“A big part of the American League is about development,” Cooper said Thursday. “I don’t think at any time can you stop developing when you’re playing this game. If it’s an opportunity for him to play 20 minutes (a game) instead of 10, that’s a good thing.”
Joseph said his time up north did him well. He got to see some of his friends who he hadn’t seen in a while and he said he had fun on the trip.
“It was good,” he said. “I was in all situations and was able to have some confidence with the puck, a lot of touches.
“They just want me to play my game They know I can bring more to the table in Tampa, and that’s the conversation we had. They want me to find that confidence and bring it to the game, too. Sometimes it starts with a little setback.”
Lightning among first in Atlantic Division to finish series
Tampa Bay will be the only team in the league to have three series completed by 2020.
The Lightning will finish their first Atlantic Division series Saturday against the Panthers and their second against the Sabres on New Year’s Eve. They finished a back-and-forth against the Metropolitan Division’s Capitals last weekend
“A lot of times you have those division games later in the season,” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said, “but every game is turning into an important two points for us no matter who our opponent is, and it shouldn’t change the way we play, but it’s obviously more significant of where we are and where these guys are ahead of us in the standings.”
Last season, Tampa Bay didn’t finish its first series against a divisional opponent until Feb. 10 against — you guessed it — the Panthers. And now they’re looking at having three out of 31 series’ complete by the New Year.
“It’s different,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “But it is what it is and we have to finish it out strong.”
Charity work lauded
Monday night was the “20th Anniversary of Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night,” a proclamation issued by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.
The Lightning celebrated Hockey Fights Cancer in November, a league-wide initiative that teams throughout the NHL participate in every year. Tampa Bay Fights Cancer, however, focuses on the efforts of Steve Yerrid, a local lawyer whose Yerrid Foundation has spent the past 25 years working toward a cure for pediatric cancer. Monday commemorated the two-decade anniversary behind the night.
The Yerrid Foundation, partnered with the Lightning Foundation, supplies tickets for patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses and others for one game every season. Alongside Castro, Yerrid participated in Monday’s ceremonial puck drop.