After a long and tough road trip the Tampa Bay Lightning returned to the ice Sunday morning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. For more than an hour, head coach Jon Cooper had the team on the ice, as he shuffled lines and worked on scoring/situational drills in preparation for Monday’s game against the New York Rangers.
Spending more than a week on the west coast, the Lightning are still working to get acclimated with another time zone change since their red-eye flight back to Tampa Bay Saturday morning.
“I think guys are tired and we’re trying to get our biological clocks back on the east coast,” Matt Carle said. “It was tough getting up this morning, but guys are trying to push that aside and come out hard and focused.”
“Everyone was just glad to get home,” Cooper said. “The Anaheim game at home was just an extension of our road trip. Our road trip started two weeks ago in Detroit and it’s been non-stop. Spirits are good, the work ethic is there and guys were zipping around today.”
Despite the exhaustion factor and only grabbing one point in their last four games, the mood at practice was positive and light. The Bolts felt the latter half of the road swing helped them realize that this was just a little slump rather than a team in peril.
“Even though we only got the one point in Anaheim we played the way we needed to play,” Nate Thompson said. “We’d like to score more, but I thought we had a lot of good chances heading into tomorrow’s game.”
Tampa Bay will need to get back into a defense-first style of play to further prevent their losing streak from becoming a sign of bigger problems ahead.
It was pointed out Sunday to Cooper that teams can often sense a losing streak in the making. Steadily improving in their past two games against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, despite being handed losses, it was asked if he could sense the Bolts getting back on track.
“If we play like we did last game and some of the San Jose game, I’ll take our chances on winning games,” Cooper said. “I feel that’s going to turn for us. The guys are committed to doing so many different things and inevitably that’s how it turns out for you.”
With the Lightning winning some games this season they quite possibly could have lost, Cooper said sometimes you’re on the other end, but the way Tampa Bay has been playing is a good indicator.
There have been a lot of shakeups with the Lightning personnel since Steven Stamkos headed to injury reserve. Including defenseman Radko Gudas, who succumbed to an upper body injury, after a first period fight with Luca Sbisa in Friday’s game versus the Anaheim Ducks.
He did not practice Sunday along with forward Ryan Malone, who has a lower body injury. Though the ailment was undisclosed, Malone did block a shot off his foot Friday.
Cooper said both players are questionable to return to the lineup in Monday’s contest against the New York Rangers and if they are not ready to go a call-up is possible.
“There’s a chance of a call-up just for bodies,” Cooper said. “Our organization’s taken a little bit of a hit right now and our depth is being tested all the way through.”
Defenseman Keith Aulie also skated in a regular jersey, after wearing a red, no-contact sweater for a week and said being out of the lineup has not thrown his conditioning off too much. For him, it is more of a matter of being 100-percent, as he nears his return as early as this homestand along with forward Tom Pyatt (still not cleared for contact).
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Line shuffling continues as these trios worked together Sunday: Filppula-Killorn-St. Louis; Brown-Thompson-Purcell; Palat-Johnson-Panik; Labrie-Pyatt (red, no-contact jersey)-Crombeen.
Today’s defensive pairings: Hedman-Salo, Carle-Sustr, Brewer-Barberio
Netminder Ben Bishop has a 3-0-0 record with one shutout and a 1.26 goals against average in his career against the Rangers.