Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn wore a regular practice jersey during the opening day of Bolts’ playoff training, the first time Killorn hasn’t worn a red or yellow jersey since suffering an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the final three games of the regular season.
Killorn said he thinks he will be available for Game 1 of the Lightning’s First Round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday at Amalie Arena.
“We planned for today to be the first day for me to skate with the guys and stuff,” Killorn said. “So, I felt good. It’s progressing well. I think by Thursday, I’ll be fine.”
Killorn finished the regular season with 15 goals and 23 assists in 71 games. The 25-year-old Halifax native said he would have liked to have played in the regular season finale for conditioning purposes but doesn’t feel it will be an issue once the playoffs start.
“I think there’s going to be a ton of adrenaline in the first playoff game,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to affect me that much, maybe a shift or two just to kind of get into things. Skating right now, even though it’s clearly not a game, I don’t feel like I’m sucking air.”
Defenseman Andrej Sustr continued to wear red but is steadily getting more involved in training sessions.
He too is targeting a Game 1 return.
“I’m getting into a little bit of game mode now, getting into some little battles and practicing with the team,” Sustr said. “It’s a good sign.”
Sustr hasn’t played since March 28, missing the final six games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. Sustr’s availability will be determined by how well his body responds to the training leading up to Thursday.
“It’s still three days away, so we got a little bit of time, but we’ll see how the practices go and go from there,” he said.
Fellow blue liner Jason Garrison was also wearing red on Monday. His status is a little less hopeful than Killorn and Sustr, however. Garrison likely won’t be ready for this week and next week is up in the air as well.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen this week, but I’m making progress every day,” said Garrison, who hasn’t played since getting checked hard into the boards by Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader on March 28. “There’s still lots to go, but if my body responds well, hopefully sooner than later.”
Braydon Coburn practiced fully Monday and is looking more and more likely to return to the lineup on Thursday.
“Today’s practice was really a lot of it was geared for (Sustr) and (Garrison) and Coburn to make it tough for them to make it more like a game situation, their reads, their gaps and things like that,” Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness said.
Last season’s four-game sweep at the hands of Montreal left a “sour taste” in the mouths of the Lightning, despite the success of the regular season, according to Bowness.
The Bolts spent too much time focusing on Montreal and not themselves, Bowness said. They’ll be careful not to make the same mistake this season versus Detroit.
“You can’t get so focused on Detroit that you’re taking your focus off us,” Bowness said of Tampa Bay’s playoff preparation. “The most important team going into this is us, how we play, what we have to do to be successful, how we have to play to be successful. So we never take the focus off of us, but now you’re more focused on Detroit and their individual tendencies.”
Last year’s playoff experience, albeit brief, should help the Lightning be better prepared going into the First Round series against Detroit.
“Last year, during the regular season, we were talking about this as a reference point like, ‘You can’t do that in the playoffs. You can’t do that in the playoffs,’” Bowness said. “There was no reference point last year. Too many guys hadn’t seen the playoffs. Well, now they went through the playoffs.”