Following a thrilling 5-4 shootout win on Friday against the New Jersey Devils, the Tampa Bay Lightning held practice on Saturday afternoon and was back at the Tampa Bay Times Forum again on Monday morning for yet another on-ice session.
Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, Anders Lindback and Pierre-Cedric Labrie all skated today before team practice.
According to head coach Jon Cooper, Labrie, who is recovering from an upper body injury, is “coming along, but not as fast as we’d like.”
Lindback, meanwhile, “is coming too and I can’t say exactly where he’s at, but I’d expect he’s going to be back here soon. He’s making a lot of progress,” Cooper added.
The Bolts head coach did not say much, however, regarding the status of Lecavalier or Malone.
Jon Cooper said that now that his first NHL game behind the bench is under his belt, he feels more comfortable and relaxed to get down to business in order to prepare for “what’s ahead of us,” he said.
“This weekend I was able to kind of take things in and be by myself,” Cooper said. “I ate breakfast outside and then I responded to the hundreds of text messages I received, and after that I was burnt. It was good to get out for a little while though and gather my thoughts and take a breath.”
Cooper also touched on the state of the players, for they too had experienced an emotional week as well.
“They were really excited after [Friday’s] game,” Cooper added. “I thought we had a really good practice on Saturday and they spent some time with their families on Sunday. So, the timing of me coming in and with the schedule we have really worked out well for me and the guys.”
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Head coach Jon Cooper discussed the progress made with the team in Saturday and Monday's practices.
Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr got his first taste of NHL action on Friday against the Devils, and impressed head coach Jon Cooper with his play so much that he was actually granted more ice time towards the end of the game.
Sustr, who did say he was a bit nervous at first, logged 13:07 of ice time and recorded one shot on goal, as well as a blocked shot.
But as Cooper, stated, he was calm and poised with the puck and made smart decisions.
“I thought that for him to come in as a defenseman and play, that was great,” Cooper said. “That’s incredibly difficult position. So, did he make some mistakes? He did, but he had good instincts, and if that’s his bottom, then I can’t wait to see where the top is for him.”
The Bolts will be without forward Nate Thompson for the next two games, including Tuesday’s home game against the Panthers, as well as Thursday’s road contest at Carolina.
With Thompson out of the lineup and forward Dana Tyrell being reassigned to Syracuse, forward Mike Angelidis was called up late Monday afternoon from the Crunch of the American Hockey League to fill Thompson’s spot in the lineup.
“That’s a tough one,” Cooper said of not having Thompson in the lineup. “I’m not so sure there is anyone who can come right in and replace Nate. It’s another penalty killer, another centerman, and we’re thin there, so we’ll have to figure it out.”
The Lightning executed some depth moves on Monday, signing forward Tanner Richard and defenseman Luke Witkowski to contracts.
Richard, who has skated in 52 games this season with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, recording 11 goals and 62 points to go along with 94 penalty minutes, was signed to a three-year entry level deal.
Witkowski, who has played in 38 games as a captain with the Western Michigan University Broncos in 2012-13, recording two goals and 10 points to go along with 46 penalty minutes, inked a two-year contract.