TAMPA — Jon Cooper never doubted what Tyler Johnson could do on the ice. Since the start of training camp, the Lightning coach has praised the veteran forward for his efforts and the way he has handled the team’s salary-cap situation, which resulted in Johnson and defenseman Luke Schenn being on the taxi squad for Wednesday’s season opener.
That’s why Cooper said Johnson deserved to be back in the lineup for Friday night’s game against the Blackhawks, a 5-2 Lightning win.
“There’s no hard feelings, and players like ‘Johnny’ know they’ll be back in the lineup,” Cooper said Friday morning. “We’ve had guys come in here and have great years, and if Johnny’s effort is any indication of what he’s been giving here at the start of training camp, he’s in a really good spot.”
Johnson had no issue getting reacclimated. He had one shot and one hit in 15:22 of ice time over 20 shifts and assisted on Alex Killorn’s second-period goal.
Anthony Cirelli found Johnson open in the corner, and Johnson shuffled a pass to Killorn, who was uncovered at the top of the slot. Killorn snapped a shot past Chicago goaltender Collin Delia, and the Lightning led 2-0.
“He is a contributor on our team, and he has been for a long time,” Cooper said of Johnson. “When he’s getting after it and he’s using his speed, he’s an effective player, and you saw that (Friday).”
Schenn also returned to the lineup, recording two shots on goal, two hits and one blocked shot while playing 7:36 over 12 shifts.
Moves such as placing Johnson and Schenn on the taxi squad, new in the league this season because of the coronavirus pandemic, are “a sign of the times” given the Lightning’s tight cap situation, Cooper said.
“They know this potentially might not be the last time that this happens,” Cooper said. “And we’ve got to be ready for it, but we also know it’s in our job, we have a task at hand, and we have to perform.”
Blake Coleman scores in home rink for first time
Forward Blake Coleman, acquired at last season’s trade deadline, has played only six games for the Lightning at Amalie Arena.
Of the nine games he played for the Lightning in the regular season last year, four were at Amalie Arena before the season was shut down and the postseason played in a bubble in Toronto and Edmonton.
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On Friday, in his second Amalie Arena game this season, Coleman scored his first goal in his home rink.
“It kind of sums up what a year it’s been,” Coleman said. “It’s been a long time, and I only have a couple of home games under my belt here, so I’m still kind of learning the ins and outs here in Tampa. I didn’t get a lot of time in this building (last year), unfortunately, and I’m starting to settle in and figure it all out.”
About halfway through the second period, Yanni Gourde passed from the right circle to Barclay Goodrow in front of the net. Goodrow backhanded a pass to Coleman in the slot, and Coleman scored on a rebound of his shot through traffic.
“I’d imagine you’d see a lot of those (kind of goals) from our line this year,” Coleman said. “My thought at that time, with all of the traffic, was to just get the puck on net in any way. It’s going to be ugly sometimes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
In the third period, Coleman picked up an assist on goal by Gourde.
Mikhail Sergachev takes a nasty spill
Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was skating toward a pair of players at full speed midway through the first period when his left skate got caught, causing him to trip.
He was slow to get up and skated to the bench on his right leg, unable to put any weight on his left. He sat on the bench briefly before being helped back to the dressing room.
Sergachev missed only 2:29 of game time before returning to join the second power-play unit during a break in play.
Sergachev competed without issue for the rest of the game, getting 21:155 over 31 shifts, second most behind Victor Hedman (32).