Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said injured forwards Cedric Paquette and Jonathan Drouin are “making strides” and both will hopefully play at some point on the Bolts current road trip.
But not tonight.
Cooper ruled both out for tonight’s game between the Lightning and Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena but added that both are questionable for Thursday when the Bolts take on the Sabres in Buffalo.
Paquette has a lower-body injury and has missed the last three games. Paquette has played just five games this season after dealing with a similar injury from the preseason that carried over into the regular season.
Drouin hasn’t seen time in the last two games as he is also dealing with a lower-body injury.
WE MEET AGAIN
The Lightning and Red Wings are facing off for the second time this season, the Red Wings winning 3-1 on Oct. 13 in the Bolts’ fourth game of the season.
Both teams entered that early-season contest undefeated but have struggled to maintain consistency since.
The Lightning are 3-4-2 following their first loss of the season in Detroit.
The Red Wings are 2-5-1 since.
“I don’t know if either team has really taken strides since the last time that we played each other,” Cooper said.
The Lightning and Red Wings, however, have won their previous game, so one team can get on a bit of a roll with a win tonight.
“It’s very similar in the sense that they probably played their best game in the last couple weeks on Saturday and we played ours on Sunday,” Cooper said, referring to Detroit’s 5-3 win in Ottawa and the Lightning’s 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes in Carolina. “Maybe both teams are kind of finding their stride a little bit. One team’s going to get their winning streak going and one’s not, so hopefully it’s us.”
Recent callup Tye McGinn only played a shade under nine minutes in his 2015-16 and Lightning debut on Sunday, but Cooper said the 25-year-old forward brought a much-needed energy to the Bolts.
“I thought he brought life to the bench, brought life to the ice,” Cooper said. “I know he only played nine minutes, but it was a quality nine minutes. That’s what we needed from him, and he gave it to us.”
Tyler Johnson scored his first goal in Tampa Bay’s 13th game of the season Sunday evening in Carolina, becoming the last Lightning forward on the Opening Night roster to get on the score sheet.
Last season, Johnson had a similarly sluggish start, scoring just one goal in his first 12 games before tallying four in his next three games and going on to register a career-best 29 for the season and earn his first selection to the NHL All-Star Game.
Johnson is hoping his game-winner against the Hurricanes will spark a comparable scoring explosion.
“When you get a goal, when you get that confidence…you can relax a little bit and play your best hockey,” Johnson said. “You can’t focus on goal scoring or anything like that, just play the game the right way and do the small things and go on from there.”
Johnson centered a line with Alex Killorn on his left wing and usual linemate Nikita Kucherov on the right during morning skate at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena as Cooper continued to tinker with the lines in an effort to find the right goal-scoring mix. Johnson’s typical left winger Ondrej Palat skated alongside Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan on the top line.
Johnson said adjusting to having Killorn on his line shouldn’t be much of an issue.
“I’ve played with (Killorn) quite a bit actually throughout the year,” Johnson said. “He’s a big body. He protects the puck well. He moves his feet. He’s a great player. I don’t think you really have to change anything, you just go play and use our systems that we have in place.”