While not a done deal, it’s looking more and more likely Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn will return to the Bolts’ lineup for Game 1 of the First Round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Detroit Red Wings.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said Coburn is “questionable to probable” to play Thursday.
“He’s really close,” Cooper said. “So, we’ll get another good battle tomorrow and make the decision then.”
Coburn (lower-body injury) said every day he feels a little bit better and is nearly 100 percent.
“I think it’s a possibility (to play Thursday),” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a foregone conclusion yet, but I’m trying to get myself to that position where if it is a possibility then I can step in.”
Coburn is one of a handful of Lightning players with considerable postseason experience having advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2009-10 with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Philadelphia fell four-games-to-two to the Chicago Blackhawks.
One of the major reasons the Lightning acquired Coburn before the trade deadline was for what he could provide the team during a lengthy postseason run.
“I was hoping they brought me here for good looks,” Coburn joked. “The good thing is in Philadelphia, we had some great series, some great battles. I played with some players that really showed in the playoffs well. Whatever I can pass on to the guys here, and for me, just play my game and do my job, that’s the biggest thing.”
Coburn said the one similarity this Lightning team shares with that Stanley Cup runner-up squad in Philadelphia is a belief in their ability.
“This is a very confident group,” he said. “Guys have a lot of confidence in themselves and the team, and I think every good team that I’ve been on and especially in Philly, there was an underlying confidence in our ability to win games.”
Defenseman Andrej Sustr and forward Alex Killorn both wore regular jerseys at Tuesday’s optional practice session, a sign that both are getting nearer to a return.
Sustr (upper-body injury) wore a regular sweater for the first time since his injury. Killorn (undisclosed injury) was in a blue for a second-straight day.
Defenseman Jason Garrison (upper-body injury) continued to train in a red no-contact jersey.
“Everybody’s looking to be on track,” Cooper said. “We’re hoping to get most of them back, but we’re not getting everybody back. We’re definitely going to be healthier Thursday than we were when we finished the season, so that’s a good sign.”
With the Bolts close to having their full roster available, Luke Witkowski was reassigned to the AHL Syracuse Crunch Tuesday afternoon. Witkowski played in 16 games with the Lightning this season.
The Lightning won three of four matchups against Detroit in 2014-15, the only loss coming in the last meeting on March 20 at Joe Louis Arena.
Cooper said the main difference between games 1-3 and No. 4 was the Bolts’ ability to keep possession.
“We had the puck a lot in the game we beat them,” he said. “In the game they beat us, they had the puck the whole time. So I think that’s big for us is when we have the puck we’re usually in pretty good shape.”
Cooper said it will be important for the Lightning to stay disciplined at all times to have a chance of winning the series against the Red Wings.
“The one thing about them is they don’t have really any holes,” Cooper said. “They play the game so well in all three zones. They’ve always got numbers back. You never really see them give up odd-man rushes. You’re never looking at their box score and saying, ‘Oh wow, Detroit gave up 40 shots a game.’ That doesn’t really happen. They usually limit teams to under 30 shots. There’s not a ton of scoring chances. A lot of times they might not generate a ton themselves, but they always keep themselves in the game.”