Defenseman Eric Brewer will make his debut appearance of the 2014-15 season when the Tampa Bay Lightning square off against the Montreal Canadiens at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Amalie Arena .
Brewer, a 16-year veteran of the National Hockey League, was a healthy scratch for the Lightning’s first two games.
“The one thing about Brewer, he’s a pro,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “He works his tail off, and he waits for his chance. But, I’m sure he’s not been happy about it. I don’t know, that’s probably good in a player I think. You shouldn’t be happy about your being sat out.”
Brewer will replace Andre Sustr, who saw 17:45 of ice time on Saturday and 15:30 in the season opener. Also, Mark Barberio and Jonathan Drouin are scratches for the third game in a row.
“You feel for the guys. You want them all to succeed,” Cooper said. “Everybody wants to play. Nobody wants to sit down and feel ‘I’m sitting out, am I not wanted?’ That’s not the case at all. Somebody’s got to make those decisions. What we’re doing, so many factors go into it, but, ultimately, is what do we have to put in the lineup to win tonight?”
Brewer said he was disappointed when he learned he wouldn’t be playing in the first two games but understands it’s part of the job.
“They made the choices. We just deal with it,” Brewer said. “We just come to play and do what we’re told.”
Cooper said Jonathan Drouin wouldn’t play against Montreal but could make his NHL debut soon. Drouin is scheduled for his final checkup tonight or Tuesday.
“He’s really close. It’s just he’s not quite ready,” Cooper said. “I’ve said this in the past, we’re going to play him when he’s most ready to play, and he’s really close.”
Cooper’s biggest fear is rushing Drouin into the lineup and then losing him for an extended time period because he wasn’t 100% healthy.
“The one thing about this whole situation is I want to get him in. I want to see what he has,” Cooper said. “I’m pretty excited to see what’s going to go on here too…But we want to make sure he’s ready to go and definitely don’t want it being a situation where there’s a chance of re-injury.”
Cooper said Drouin shouldn’t have any problem fitting into the lineup once he’s medically cleared to play.
“We have a lot of guys that think like he does, can play at a pace like he does, have a skill set like he does,” Cooper said. “He’s not coming into a lineup that’s full of a bunch of guys that dump and chase. So I think that’s going to be good for him.”
The Canadiens swept the Lightning 4-0 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last season, but the Bolts won’t have revenge on their mind during tonight’s matchup. Instead, they’ll treat it like just another regular season game.
“Last season was last season,” said Lightning G Ben Bishop, who will start his third-straight game between the pipes to open 2014-15. “We have a bunch of new guys. They have some new faces, so I don’t think there really is any carryover from last year’s playoff series to now.”
Tonight’s game offers the Lightning a good early-season test to see how they match up against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re looking at this game as a divisional game and an important one,” Lightning F Ryan Callahan said. “Whether it’s the first time you play a divisional opponent or the last time, it’s two points. The playoffs are in the past. We’re not really thinking about that.”