Tampa Bay Lightning fans will get a first-hand look at highly-touted prospect Jonathan Drouin when the 19-year-old skates tonight at Amalie Arena against the Arizona Coyotes.
Drouin made his NHL debut eight days ago in Edmonton. He recorded his first point a day later at Calgary after assisting on Valtteri Filppula’s game-tying goal.
Drouin scored the opening goal of his professional career on October 24 versus Winnipeg. In four games so far, Drouin has tallied three points (one goal, two assists).
Obviously getting the season started on the road for me was a good thing. Playing in Canada was fun,” said Drouin, a native of Ste-Agathe, Quebec. “But I’m excited to get started here in Tampa. It should be a fun one tonight.”
Drouin said he was able to develop confidence following his road-game performances.
“The execution is higher [in the NHL], the level of the passes and everything is higher than juniors,” he said. “I think it went pretty well so far and just have to keep working hard.”
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who was paired with Drouin and Filppula on a high-powered line at times during the road trip, said it’s important for Drouin to “just keep doing what he’s doing” and not worry about making mistakes.
“I’m sure he’s excited [about tonight],” Stamkos said. “This is a long time coming for the fans to watch him play a regular season game at home. I think maybe for him it’s a little easier to start on the road and not have that pressure.”
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said it was good for Drouin to score and get points early to “kind of get that weight off (his) shoulder (and) concentrate on being one of the players on the Tampa Bay Lightning.”
The biggest challenge for the youngster moving forward, according to Cooper, will be to improve on his play during those times he isn’t in possession of the puck.
“He’s going to get points in this league,” Cooper said. “He’s got to worry about the other parts, playing away from the puck…I think when he was in junior, he probably had the puck on his stick all the time, and if he didn’t, the goalie was fishing it out of the net. In this league, it’s a little different. You really have to learn how to play without the puck.”
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman spoke with reporters following Tuesday’s morning skate sporting a cast around the surgically-repaired finger on his right hand. Hedman said he’s been rehabbing since having the procedure completed last Tuesday and that he’ll see a doctor Thursday about possibly removing the cast.
“I can’t sweat too much because (the cast) can’t get wet,” Hedman said. “I’m trying to do as much as I can without sweating.”
Hedman said the injury, which occurred when he blocked a pair of shots in quick succession against Vancouver, wasn’t painful, but he knew something was wrong almost immediately.
“You have a lot of adrenaline during the game, so it didn’t hurt a whole lot,” Hedman said. “…When I took off my glove, I knew it was bad, and the x-ray confirmed it.”
Hedman pointed to Stamkos and how the Lightning captain dealt with a broken leg midway through the 2013-14 season as an example to follow during his rehabilitation, which is scheduled to take four to six weeks.
“Just looking at Stammer last year, his mentality, what he went through, (my injury’s) not even close how bad it was for him,” Hedman said. “Looking at him, you have to keep your spirit up and just try to work hard to get back as soon as you can…It’s just about trying to stay positive all the time and just work hard and try to get back.”
Cooper said there was “a very, very, very good chance” forwards J.T. Brown and Alex Killorn would play Tuesday versus Arizona. Brown (upper-body injury) skated for the first time with the team Monday since his injury and participated fully during Tuesday’s morning skate, partnering on a line with Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow. Brown was crushed into the boards by Winnipeg’s Chris Thorburn in the first period of Friday’s game and had his head and face smashed against the glass.
Killorn (upper-body injury) rejoined the Bolts in training toward the end of the team’s Western Canada/Minnesota road trip but hasn’t played since last Saturday against Vancouver. Killorn, who played on a line with Stamkos and Filppula during Tuesday’s morning skate, was injured when he caught an edge in practice prior to the game at Edmonton and crashed hard into the boards.
Cooper said Killorn adds “speed, size, skill [and] a guy that goes to the net” when he’s on the ice.
“I think if anything we lacked on the road trip a little bit of net presence, and if you think about the goals that we scored, a lot of it had to do with getting the puck up to the point, net presence and stuff like that and he’s one of those guys so he should help,” Cooper said.
Lightning forward Ryan Callahan left during the second period of the Bolts’ loss at Edmonton last Monday and has been sidelined with a lower-body injury. Cooper said Callahan’s status has improved, moving from week-to-week to day-to-day and suggested he could play by the end of the week.
“I would say if it was up to Ryan, he’d be playing tonight, but it’s not up to him,” Cooper said. “Our medical staff, he’s got to clear a few hurdles…I think there’s players out there you kind of have to push to get back in and there’s players you have to push to stay out because they want to get back in so bad. He’s one of those guys. For his own good, you have to make sure you tell him to slow down a little bit. But he’ll be ready soon. I’ll be bummed out if he doesn’t play some point this week. Saturday counts as this week.”