TAMPA — The Lightning returned to practice Monday after two days off, but coach Jon Cooper wanted to make sure his team didn’t forget one of its most frustrating losses of the season three nights earlier in Winnipeg.
The Lightning were their own worst enemy in Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Jets, committing nine penalties, allowing nearly eight minutes of power-play time and yielding goals on two separate occasions after putting themselves at a 5-on-3 disadvantage.
“Nothing changed,” Cooper said. ”My attitude (Monday) is the same as it was (three) nights ago. And we’ve addressed it, but this isn’t one where we’re turning the page. And I do believe that the two days probably rested the mind, a little bit of the body, but the guys, they understand where we’re coming from. And this has been a great self-correcting team over the years, and so I’m not worried about this group whatsoever.”
After dropping two of three games on the trip — the Lightning also lost the second of back-to-back games Wednesday in Minnesota — Tampa Bay plays its next two at home, starting Tuesday against Columbus. It then returns to the road for five games on a trip that will take it to St. Louis and Seattle, and through western Canada.
“We can’t pass up points that I felt we passed up on that road trip,” Cooper said. “When we’re staring at a five-game road trip coming up here, it’s pivotal that we get our game in order these next two (games) at home.”
The Lightning (24-13-1, 49 points, third place in the Atlantic) are just 9-9-0 on the road, compared to 15-4-1 at home. They have yet to lose three straight games this season.
As they regrouped after having the weekend off, the Lightning addressed the need to cut down on turnovers that have led to some of their penalties.
Winnipeg’s first 5-on-3 started when a turnover in the offensive zone forced Tampa Bay defenseman Cal Foote to commit a holding penalty while trying to backcheck on a 2-on-1. Steven Stamkos’ cross-checking penalty, which came after a turnover created a 2-on-1 the other way, contributed to the other 5-on-3.
“That’s kind of been a pattern that we’re trying to get rid of, but it seems to be a tendency in our game to have too many turnovers,” Lightning center Brayden Point said. “We definitely looked at that and then, again, the penalties. Some are hard work and just bad luck, a couple of those high sticks, guys are trying to battle, trying to do the right thing, but there’s some that we can avoid.”
Balcers back at practice
The Lightning weren’t able to get a good look at forward Rudolfs Balcers, who played just three games after being claimed off waivers from Florida before a shoulder injury sidelined him. After being out for more than six weeks, Balcers was a full participant in practice for the first time Monday.
“I was with the team for pretty much for a week, two weeks, and then you get hurt,” Balcers said. “Obviously, you’re at the rink with the guys, but you’re not really with them in the locker room, you’re not practicing on the ice with them, so it kind of sucked. ... I feel like pretty much (part of) the group now. It was fun to be out there with them (Monday).”
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Cooper said he expects Balcers to be available “within the next week.”
“Love the kid,” Cooper said. “You feel for these guys, because there’s a lot of leg days and a lot of cardio days when you have those upper-body injuries. But he worked his tail off, so he deserves to get in at some point here. We’ll just see. When is the big thing.”
Hedman expected to return Tuesday
Victor Hedman, who left the team before Friday’s game to be with his wife, Sanna, for the birth of the couple’s second child, did not attend practice Monday. Cooper said the left-shot defenseman should be available for Tuesday’s game.
The Lightning did have Zach Bogosian back at practice. The right-shot defenseman missed the previous two games with an undisclosed injury.
Lightning to host pro women’s event, girls clinics
The Lightning are partnering with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association to host four games of the Dream Gap Tour Feb. 24-26 at AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel. More than 40 Olympians are slated to play, including the United States’ Kendall Coyne Schofield, Megan Keller, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight and Maddie Rooney.
Coinciding with the event will be on-ice clinics for girls ages 7-16 ($65 cost includes one ticket to a select PWHPA game of their choice) and a Try Hockey for Free clinic for girls ages 5-10. The clinic will feature instruction from two-time world champion Kelley Steadman, PWHPA athletes and coaches, and the Lightning Hockey Development staff.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to lightninghockeydevelopment.com/pwhpa.
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