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Pregame Notebook: Jason Garrison could return for tonight's Game 4

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison hasn’t been ruled out for tonight’s Game 4 versus the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said there’s no change to Garrison’s status, but he’s getting “closer and closer” to a return.

“He could play, but I don’t know,” Cooper said. “The longer this (series) goes, the more chance he has of playing.

Garrison said he’s been feeling more comfortable on the ice and is ready to go if called up tonight.

“I think that coming into this day I knew that I was kind of a game-time decision,” Garrison said. “I think that’s still the case.”

Garrison has been sidelined by an upper-body injury from getting checked hard into the boards from behind by Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader in a regular-season game on March 28. Garrison missed the last six games of the regular season and the opening three games of the First Round playoff series against the Red Wings but has been practicing with contact for over a week now.

“I think obviously I’m going to prepare myself like I’m going to play,” Garrison said. “When I get the yes or no, I’ll be ready.”

OPENING GOAL CRITICAL

In all three games during the current series, the team that scores first has gone on to win the game.

For the Lightning to leave Joe Louis with a victory tonight, it will be especially important to grab the opening goal and not play from behind, especially in front of a fired-up Red Wings crowd.

“It seems like this series, (the opening goal’s) even bigger,” Lightning center Brian Boyle said. “Detroit’s pretty stingy. They’re not giving up much in terms of around their net. They collapse pretty hard. They do a pretty good job of boxing out. You’ve got to lean on them, maybe you can open them up. But you want to play the same way. You want to grab the lead. You want to be a consistent team, play the same way that’s given you success throughout the year.”

Once the Red Wings got leads in Game 1 and Game 3, they became even tougher to score on because of their ability to clamp tighter on the high-powered Lightning offense with a goal in hand.

“Either way they were tough, Game 3 more so, we didn’t do enough to break free and get through it,” Boyle said. “Game 1 they were tough, but we still had our chances. It’s just, we can’t let it affect us too negatively. When we get scored on, turn the page and have a better shift right off the draw. We’ve got to try and get that back as quick as we can.”

Braydon Coburn said it will be crucial for the Lightning to get into the game from the opening puck drop tonight. On Tuesday, the Bolts were sluggish from the start and didn’t grab a foothold in the game until at least 10 minutes in.

“I think we have to make sure we have a better start, control the puck and execute,” Coburn said. That’s the biggest thing, and I think we can ratchet up our compete level as well.”

LINEUP CHANGES

Besides the possible return of Garrison, Cooper said the lineup will probably remain the same tonight as it has for the first three games of the series but left open the possibility of a change or two.

“We’ve kind of liked the way we’ve played, but could that change? Sure,” Cooper said.

Forward Jonathan Drouin and defenseman Mark Barberio have been healthy scratches for Games 1-3 and have yet to play in the First Round series.

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