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Feeling better, Bolts' Drouin returns to practice

The forward, who was sidelined in Thursday's loss to Calgary with the flu, was a full participant Saturday

by Bryan Burns /

The biggest (and best) news to come out of Tampa Bay's double practice session at AMALIE Arena on Saturday was the return of standout forward Jonathan Drouin.

Drouin was forced to sit the Lightning's 3-2 loss on Thursday to the Calgary Flames as he continued to recover from the effects of the flu. He was a full participant in both Saturday sessions, and with Cory Conacher, his replacement on Thursday, re-assigned to the Syracuse Crunch on Friday, it's a good bet Drouin will be back in the lineup when the Bolts host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

"Got a little flu bug that's going around," Drouin said. "Just getting back to skating felt good. Felt tired at first, but it was nice to have an extra couple days off."

Drouin has been one of Tampa Bay's most productive players after a slower-than-expected first two months of the season. Since Dec. 1, Drouin ranks second on the Lightning for scoring with 29 points, just three behind Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman.

Video: Drouin on returning to Bolts practice

Drouin leads the Bolts for goals since December 1 with 14, two more than leading goal scorer Nikita Kucherov.

Drouin said the couple of days away from the rink left him a bit tired at the end of the second session 
Saturday, but he still has another day to return to normal before facing the Senators.

"I guess the first session's not that hard, it's just moving the puck and making plays on the power play," he said. "Definitely a long session today, and I guess it's nice to have a couple days to kind of get back into rhythm. When you're out a couple days, it shows in your skating."

When he's on the ice, Drouin has combined with rookie center Brayden Point to form a dynamic 1-2 punch for the Lightning attack. Drouin said Point plays a similar game to himself, which allows the two to have such great chemistry together.

"He's a smart player, fast," Drouin said. "He's going to be a great player in this league for a while. It's his first year and you can already see that. The way he plays, he demands the puck. He wants it. It's always nice to see when you have somebody on your line that wants it and wants to make plays. 

"To have Pointer, the way he's been playing since he came back from injury, it's been great, and we definitely have a little bit of a connection on the ice."

RARE THREE-DAY BREAK: The Lightning have three days between Thursday's loss versus Calgary and Monday's contest against Atlantic Division rival Ottawa, an uncommon break this late in the regular season, especially considering the Bolts were on their bye week just a week ago.

The time off can be both beneficial and disadvantageous for the Lightning.

An extended break this late in the season is good rest for any team, especially with so many games on top of one another due to the condensed NHL schedule this season.

"Our schedule has been pretty packed, Drouin said. "You take the bye week and the all-star break, and it's been back-to-backs since. So to have those two, three days without any games, it's nice definitely coming at the end of the season like that."

Added defenseman Anton Stralman: "I think when you get into this last month and a half, I think you'll take any break you can get. I think it's positive."

Conversely, the Lightning are coming off a loss in which their energy level didn't match the effort of previous victories. The thinking then is the Bolts would like to get back out on the ice as soon as possible to erase that subpar performance from their memory.

Video: Killorn on high-tempo practice

"Definitely wasn't one of our best games," Stralman said. "That game is out of our system now. We can't change it; just move forward. We sure feel like that was a winnable game that we didn't play our best and didn't get the result. That's unfortunate but we'll just look ahead now, take one game at a time and prepare and put our focus on Ottawa."

SILVER LININGS?: The Lightning saw their seven-game point streak come to an end against Calgary on Thursday, a game that was their fourth in six days. The Bolts looked lethargic after taking a 1-0 lead early in the first period and didn't pick their energy back up until a furious late rally fell just short at the end.

So, since their effort was poor and their play not up to the standard they had set during the point streak, could it be a bit of a glass-half-full approach to point out the Lightning still had a chance to pull out a victory in the end and were oh-so-close to getting at least a point?

"I guess you can look at it that way, but I think of it as an opportunity missed," Stralman said. "I think if we play to our standards or play to the way we have been this last few weeks, I think we would have won that game. I think it's more a disappointment than anything else."

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