Captain Martin St. Louis did not join the team for morning skate today, but according to head coach Jon Cooper, the decision on whether or not he will play, will be made at puck drop.
“Marty is a game-time decision,” Cooper said. “We’ll see what happens over the next few hours, he’s an option to play right now.”
“I have a feeling he’s going to play tonight, that’s just my gut,” Steven Stamkos said. “Marty’s a warrior, he’s proved that throughout his whole career.”
St. Louis and Stamkos are just two of his offensive-minded forwards who have seen their fair share of time on the penalty kill. Cooper was questioned Thursday on putting his stars in situations where their body is compromised.
“Blocking shots is part of the game,” Cooper said. “It used to be something the warriors did, but now just about everybody blocks shots. I’m not going to change the way I put guys out there. The second we fear a guy getting hurt by a blocked shot, then we’re probably in the wrong sport.”
The Lightning along with other teams often put their stars on the penalty kill as a gauge of ice time, as well as for the simple fact that the best penalty kills often put offensive pressure on the opposing team.
With the possibility of St. Louis missing time, forward Brett Connolly, who had an outstanding preseason with the Bolts, was recalled from their AHL affiliate the Syracuse Crunch as a precaution.
“We have another great player here in case we need him,” Stamkos said. “We’ll see how it goes tonight, but if we do have guys missing out of the lineup, you can’t replace a guy like Marty, but other guys are going to get an opportunity to step-up.”
Although it was a tough decision to reassign Connolly to Syracuse at the close of training camp, he expressed how good it felt to re-join the team in just the seventh game this season.
“I’m happy to be up this quick,” Connolly said. “I’m not really too sure what’s going to happen, but if they need me, I’ll be ready and it’s exciting to be back.”
Connolly was seen skating in place of St. Louis on the Lightning’s top line with Stamkos and Ryan Malone during Thursday’s morning skate.
“If I do get a chance to play with those two guys, it’ll be a good test for me,” Connolly said. “I’m just going to continue to do what I’ve been doing.”
When asked about what he has seen from the Wild this season, Cooper replied:
“I was extremely impressed; they have a lot of structure. They battle really hard all through their lines. It’s pretty impressive to watch and I feel for their goaltenders because they’ve taken a little bit of the brunt of what’s gone on, but pretty impressed with their team. It’s going to be tough for us.”
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Ben Bishop will get his second consecutive start between the pipes tonight versus the Wild, exiting the ice first after Thursday’s morning skate.
Healthy scratches against Minnesota will be blueliners Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio.
Nicklas Backstrom, who has missed four games with a knee strain, returns to the Wild’s lineup tonight in a back-up role, which means Josh Harding will start for Minnesota.
This season with the Crunch, Brett Connolly said he has been a part of some line jumbling. He has played on a line with Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov as well as with Tanner Richard and Geoff Walker already.