Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper believes his team will go from survivors to contenders by the end of the season because of the injury problems it is currently dealing with.
"There's no question we come out of this a better team," Cooper told NHL.com. "The one thing is if we ever do get healthy, which eventually we should, there are going to be really tough decisions for us to make. That's a good thing."
The tough decisions Cooper is making nowadays have more to do with the psyche of the young players who have been thrust into larger-than-expected roles because of the injuries to Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer (who recently returned) and others.
The Lightning have 13 players on their roster who have played in 71 or fewer NHL games, including four defensemen and goalies Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback. They dressed eight rookies Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. They have played nine this season.
"Guys that should be developing in the minors, they're cutting their teeth in the NHL," Cooper said. "That can be twofold. For some players it can work in the sense that it accelerates their growth, and for some guys it hurts because it's too much too soon. It's a really tough balance because you don't want to ruin these guys for the future and demoralize their confidence because it's a really tough League to play in, but we have no choice."