Johnson was on the ice during the Bolts’ morning practice session Thursday and was his usual self in drills, skating alongside Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said Johnson’s status for tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks at Amalie Arena has gone “from doubtful to questionable to probable” in the span of 24 hours.
“Tough kid,” Cooper said. “Precautionary, you have to look after these guys and make sure there’s nothing wrong internally and stuff like that. He was in a lot of pain…But, we’ll see tonight. We’ll see how he’s feeling after the skates. We don’t know for sure, but he seemed to be feeling pretty good.”
Johnson was down on the ice for a couple minutes following Seabrook’s hit before skating into the locker room to be examined. He didn’t return to the Chicago game, and his status was listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
“It’s tough when you have to leave a game like that, especially a big game like that,” Johnson said. “But, the boys were able to pull out a point, and that’s all that really matters.”
Johnson didn’t want to get into whether he thought Seabrook’s hit was dirty, saying only that it was a “heat of the battle” play.
Johnson currently leads the Lightning in points (18) and assists (13).
Lightning forward Alex Killorn is also probable for tonight’s game according to Cooper.
Killorn, who suffered an upper-body injury in a victory over Washington on November 1, was expected to make his return during Tampa Bay’s recently completed three-game road trip to Columbus, Detroit and Chicago but was absent each night from the Bolts lineup.
Killorn has missed the last four games. He has tallied two goals and two assists in eight games so far this season for the Bolts.
“Sometimes you don’t know how an injury is going to develop,” Killorn said. “Maybe it didn’t heal as quick as I thought, but now I feel good.”
Killorn skated in place of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos at Thursday’s practice on the Bolts’ top line with Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan. Stamkos did not train with the team, part of a planned practice day off according to Cooper.
“It’s hard to watch, but it makes it easier when the team’s winning,” Killorn said. “The guys are doing really well, so it’s nice in that sense. But, it’s also frustrating because you always want to be out there playing.”
With Killorn and Johnson both probable, the question for Cooper is: Who sits if those two are available?
“You look at our lineup, this is how things have changed a little bit with our organization,” Cooper said. “There’s been nights, especially last year, we looked about how are we going to fill a lineup, and this year how do you take guys out?”
Cooper wouldn’t speculate on who might be a healthy scratch tonight if both Killorn and Johnson play.
“Nobody on our team has deserved to come out,” Cooper said. “Maybe the first period of Chicago, we deserved to pull the whole team out. But other than that, these guys have played hard. Everybody’s done everything we’ve asked.”
BACK IN BLACK
The Lightning sported black practice jerseys and pants during Thursday’s morning skate, and Cooper said the team had an extra bounce in its step with the new look.
Tampa Bay will debut its third jersey system tonight against San Jose.
The third jersey is black and features the popular BOLTS logo from previous seasons across the front with white trim and has blue and gray as secondary colors.
“I personally am a big fan of the look of the black,” Cooper said. “That’s why we went out and we were in the pregame skate in all black. I thought our guys had a lot of jump today in the skate, especially getting in late and having a day off. But, they’re pretty slick looking jerseys. What’s the saying: Look good, feel good? Hopefully we’re feeling good tonight.”
Tampa Bay forward Brett Connolly skated with his teammates during Thursday’s practice session and said he feels close to returning to the Bolts lineup. Connolly has missed eight games with a lower-body injury.
“I think I’m day-to-day,” he said. “That’s better than week-to-week like I was.”
Connolly looked sharp while skating, displaying a burst and full range of movement that would suggest he’s nearly pain free.
“I’ve been healing a lot faster than I thought I would have,” Connolly said. “I don’t think anyone would have expected me to be out there today, skating the way I was skating today. That’s encouraging, and I’m excited to get back out there as soon as possible.”
Connolly had scored two goals in eight games before leaving the Winnipeg game (Oct. 24) wounded. He said he’s been skating on his own at the team’s Brandon Ice Sports Forum training facility while the Bolts were on the road.
“Four games, five games before I got injured, I was finding my game, and I felt really good about myself,” he said. “But that happens and I’m looking to do that when I come back, so I’m excited.”