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Mitchell Stephens could make NHL debut tonight

With Tyler Johnson out due to injury, Stephens is likely to draw into the Lightning's lineup tonight against the Isles

by Bryan Burns /

Stephens on potential NHL Debut

Mitchell Stephens on potentially making NHL Debut

Mitchell Stephens discusses the opportunity to make his NHL Debut

  • 02:24 •

The Lightning will have a little different lineup when they host the New York Islanders tonight at AMALIE Arena (7 p.m. puck drop).

Tyler Johnson, who scored a pair of goals in the Bolts' 7-1 rout of San Jose on Saturday, will not play against the Islanders. Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said Johnson is definitely out tonight and will likely miss the next few games as they await word on the extent of his injury.

"Hopefully we get better news today," Cooper said. "He's getting checked out, but, yeah, you're probably not going to see him for the next couple of games."

Video: Mitchell Stephens on potentially making NHL Debut

To account for Johnson's injury plus the start of a back-to-back set tonight, the Lightning have recalled forwards Cory Conacher and Mitchell Stephens. During Monday's morning skate, Conacher skated on the Stamkos line in Johnson's spot with the captain and Carter Verhaeghe, who's scored his first NHL goal and recorded three points on Saturday.

Stephens rotated with Mathieu Joseph on the Bolts' fourth line with Pat Maroon and Cedric Paquette. The 22-year-old native of Peterborough, Ontario has yet to appear in a NHL game and would make his League debut if he is in the lineup tonight.

Stephens led the Lightning's stretch circle following morning skate.

"That was pretty cool," Stephens said, smiling. "Patty (Pat Maroon) yells my name to go in the middle, it's a pretty cool feeling and something I'll never forget."

Stephens said he got a phone call yesterday from Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois saying he'd be recalled. His parents and sister will be in attendance tonight.

"I think obviously there's going to be nerves, but I'm excited for the opportunity and I want to do anything I can to help the team," Stephens said.

In Syracuse, Stephens has posted five goals and 10 points while playing all 24 games for the Crunch.

"The great thing about the organization is it's the guys that are really working down there that get rewarded when there's a need up here," Cooper said. "The one thing about Stephens is he's somebody I've watched grow right from his first development camp when he was drafted until here today. One thing he's blessed with is the ability to skate. Even in all the exhibition games he's played in when he's been up, that has been something that has really helped us and him is his ability to skate. If he's just got that going tonight, he's going to be an asset for us. He's good in the circle. He can kill penalties, but, as I said, to add to our team speed, that's a good thing."

The Lightning are looking to build off one of their best performances of the season Saturday, when they held the Sharks without a goal through two periods and overwhelmed San Jose in the third, building a 5-0 lead before finally allowing one in the back of their net. The Islanders have been a tough matchup for the Lightning of late. The Isles led throughout in a 5-2 win on Long Island over Tampa Bay November 1.

The Islanders rank third in the Eastern Conference currently with 40 points. The Lightning will face the top three teams in the East this week with matchups against Boston (2nd - 46 pts.) Thursday and Washington (1st - 49 pts.) Saturday.

Video: Pregame | Jon Cooper

"This should be a good one because when we were up there, we felt we didn't give them the game we felt we could," Cooper said. "So now we get another shot at it, so hopefully we can be a little better competition for them tonight."

COBURN UPDATE: Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn has missed the last four games with a lower-body injury and is listed as out indefinitely.

Cooper said Coburn is making the expected progress but is still some time from returning to action.

"He's definitely progressing, but he's still in the week-to-week category," Cooper said.

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