Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said injured defenseman Braydon Coburn, out since March 10 with a lower-body injury, should play in Thursday’s opening game of the Bolts’ First Round matchup with the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Coburn participated in four games with the Lightning after being dealt to the team on March 2 from Philadelphia and registered two assists in his short time on the ice.
Overall in 2014-15, Coburn has one goal and 10 assists in 43 games played between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.
“(He’s) looking actually pretty good, so I would expect him to be in there,” Cooper said.
Victor Hedman said having Coburn back is a big boost for the entire locker room.
“He’s tough to play against,” Hedman said. “We know when we played against Philly, he was one of those guys we didn’t want to be on the ice against. He’s tough, he’s physical, he can move the puck, he’s very good on skates and he brings a lot to team. It’s going to be exciting if he’s back tomorrow.”
Coburn is one of four players with injury concerns leading up to Thursday’s Game 1. Alex Killorn and Andrej Sustr continued to train with the rest of their teammates Wednesday at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum wearing regular practice jerseys.
Both will be game-time decisions for Thursday.
“It looks promising for most of them,” Cooper said. “I don’t think everybody’s playing, but we’ll be close.”
Jason Garrison shed his red no-contact jersey in favor of a regular sweater for the first time since being checked hard into the wall by Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader on March 28. Garrison missed the final five games of the regular season.
He is not expected to be ready for Game 1 however.
“(Garrison’s progress) is encouraging, but he’d be the one that I would say no,” Cooper said.
The Lightning’s opening round opponent practiced in the Bay Area for the first time, joining the Bolts on the opposite rink at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum.
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock said his team has nothing to lose in its series against Tampa Bay considering they almost didn’t make the playoffs are a consensus underdog.
“We know who are they are,” Babcock said. “We’re prepared for them. We’re excited to play them. There’s a good opportunity for us or them. Someone’s going to win. The playoffs are simple: they’re short for some teams and long for others. We’d like it to be long for us.”
Asked to explain what characterizes the 2014-15 version of the Lightning, Babcock pointed to the Triplets.
“I think Johnson’s line’s unbelievable,” he said. “They’ve got good depth. They’ve got a huge guy playing net. They’re set up for I think prolonged success over the long haul. I’m not talking about this year, I’m talking about the long haul.”
Detroit is making its 24th-straight appearance in the postseason, the longest active playoff streak of any of the four major North American professional sports leagues. The Lightning are in the playoffs for the second consecutive year but just the third time in the past eight seasons.
“I think experience matters but so does ability,” Babcock said. “It’s great to have all the experience in the world, but if you can’t move anymore that doesn’t do you much good…Talent is important. Being a good team is important. Structure is important. Goaltending is more important than anything I just talked about. So what is going to be the tipping point in this series?...I think it’s competition. We have to try to expose weaknesses in them, and they have to try to expose weaknesses in us.”