Tampa Bay forward Ondrej Palat headed to the locker room with an apparent injury in the third period of the Lightning’s 2-1 loss to San Jose on Thursday.
Palat returned for a couple shifts over the final minutes, but, on Friday, he was absent from the team’s practice session at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said Palat is nursing a lower-body injury, and his status for Saturday’s matchup against the New York Islanders will be a game-time decision.
“He got banged up a little bit toward the end of the [Sharks] game, nothing too serious,” Cooper said. “A little rest day for him [Friday], so, hopefully, he’s ready for (the Islanders game).”
Palat is tied for fifth on the Bolts with 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists). The left winger has yet to miss a game this season.
“We’ll have to see how he feels (Saturday),” Cooper said.
The Lightning trained for over an hour-and-a-half in Brandon on Friday. Following two-straight losses, Cooper was upbeat about his team’s attitude throughout.
“We had a lot of jump today,” he said. “These guys were working really hard. They’re proud players. They don’t want to lose. We know with our team, we have a chance to win a game every single night. I like the fact that if we do lose a game, they’re kind of pissed about it and they want to know why. As a coaching staff, we lay it out for them, and they’re responding.”
After playing two of the NHL’s elite teams in Chicago and San Jose back-to-back, the Lightning welcome the New York Islanders, winners of four straight entering a meeting Friday night with the Florida Panthers, to Amalie Arena on Saturday.
“We’ve got one of the hottest teams, if not the hottest team in the league coming in (Saturday) night,” Cooper said. “This is good for us. At least it shows us where we’re at, what we have to work on.”
The Bolts will wear their alternate black third jerseys for the second game in a row Saturday against the Islanders.
Brett Connolly skated again Friday with the Bolts, participating fully in team drills, the lower-body injury that has sidelined him for the past nine games looking like a thing of the past.
Cooper said he hopes to have the skilled forward available at some point on the Bolts’ upcoming road trip. Tampa Bay travels to New York for games against the Rangers (Monday) and Islanders (Tuesday) before heading to Toronto to play the Maple Leafs (Thursday) next week.
“Brett Connolly’s getting closer,” Cooper said. “We’re hoping to have him back next week. He won’t be in the lineup (Saturday) night, but he’s getting close. I would be surprised if he doesn’t play on the road trip.
Connolly has scored two goals in eight games so far in 2014-15.