On Friday, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper suggested All-Star center Tyler Johnson might not be available for tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins after getting nicked up on the Bolts’ recent road trip.
Johnson participated in the Lightning’s optional morning skate on Saturday and wore a regular jersey, but his availability will be a game-time decision according to Cooper.
Johnson’s injury is undisclosed.
Johnson has yet to score in nine games this season but is tied for second on the Bolts for assists with five.
Lightning forwards Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette are doubtful to play tonight. Drouin sat out Tampa Bay’s 2-1 home loss to Colorado on Thursday. Paquette has missed the last two games.
Both are sidelined by lower-body injuries.
The Lightning’s improved penalty-kill unit will get a good test tonight from the Bruins’ power play, which leads the NHL by a comfortable margin at 35.5 percent (Dallas ranks second at 27.3 percent).
The Lightning penalty kill struggled at the beginning of the season and ranked dead last in the league at one point but has improved considerably since. The Bolts haven’t allowed an opponent power-play goal in six-consecutive games and have killed 18-straight power plays.
“(The Bruins) are playing really, really well,” Cooper said. “The one thing that’s really impressed me is their special teams. Their power play has been off the charts this year.”
In the first meeting between the two teams, a 6-3 victory in the third game of the season that snapped a 10-game losing streak for the Bolts in Boston, Tampa Bay’s penalty kill was exposed, giving up three goals in four attempts.
In the eight games since, the Lightning have given up just three power-play goals.
“It’s a rare game when you give up three power-play goals and still end up winning the game, which we did,” Cooper said. “…We have to keep them off (the power play).”
Cooper said second-year goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy would return to the Lightning at some point on the upcoming four-game road trip following tonight’s home game against the Bruins.
Vasilevskiy had been sidelined after having surgery September 3 to remove a blood clot near his left collarbone. Vasilevskiy practiced with the Lightning for the first time since surgery on Monday and was assigned to AHL Syracuse Wednesday on a conditioning assignment.
In Syracuse, Vasilevskiy had two strong starts, stopping 29-of-30 shots in a 3-1 win over the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday and following that up with by making 27-of-28 saves Friday to beat the Hershey Bears 4-1.
“He’s definitely going to be on the trip,” Cooper said. “(Syracuse) doesn’t play [for a while]. We need him up here with us.”
Jason Garrison is scheduled to play in his 400th career NHL game tonight. Garrison needs three more assists to reach 100 for his career…Steven Stamkos is one power-play goal away from passing Martin St. Louis for sole possession of second place on the Bolts’ all-time power-play goals list. Stamkos scored the game-winner on the power-play in the first meeting with Boston (Oct. 12), which also was his 500th career NHL point…Jonathan Marchessault made his 2015-16 season debut on Thursday vs. Colorado and recorded one shot and one hit. Marchessault scored his first and only NHL goal in the 2014-15 regular season finale vs. Boston.