Lightning All-Star center Tyler Johnson has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury but could be back in the lineup tonight according to Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper.
Johnson was on the ice and wearing a regular jersey for the Lightning’s optional morning skate today.
“There’s a chance,” Cooper said when asked if Johnson would play tonight. “He’ll play one of these next games. I hope it’s tonight…We’ll see how he feels.”
Johnson said he feels “good right now” but will leave it up to the trainers and coaching staff to decide when he returns to action.
“We’ll see how the discussion goes and see what they decide,” Johnson said.
Johnson is tied with Valtteri Filppula and Nikita Kucherov on the Lightning for assists with seven. He scored three goals in his last seven games before the injury.
Johnson said the team’s positive play the last few games has him eager to rejoin the lineup.
“I feel a little bit refreshed and ready to go,” he said. “Watching the team battle like they have and kind of light a fire under everyone, I just want to be a part of that.”
PAQUETTE, DROUIN DAY-TO-DAY
Jonathan Drouin also took part in today’s morning skate and wore a regular jersey, but Cooper said the second-year pro is still day-to-day.
Drouin’s injury is undisclosed. He’s missed three-straight games.
“It definitely is frustrating a little bit,” said Drouin, who added that he’s getting better each day. “Today was a good day actually, felt really good on the ice.”
Cedric Paquette, meanwhile, was not present for morning skate, but Cooper said his absence was planned as part of his rehab schedule. Paquette has missed three games with an upper-body injury.
Cooper said Paquette is in the same boat as Drouin: day-to-day with hopes for a return sometime this week.
KINGS OF THE CASTLE
The Lightning lost both meetings against Los Angeles last season and have dropped three straight and six of their last seven to the Kings.
Cooper said L.A.’s size has given the Bolts trouble in the past.
“L.A. is just really structured,” he said. “They’ve won two Cups playing the way they play, and they don’t really deviate and they haven’t changed their team too much.”
The Kings are currently tied with San Jose atop the Pacific Division standings with 26 points. The Lightning have had success against the Pacific so far this season, however, going 2-0-0 and outscoring Pacific foes 8-1.
“They’re big bodies, and they have that grinding cycle that’s tough to play against,” Johnson said of the the Kings. “We’re going to have to have our A game against them. They’ve been having a great year so far, so it’s going to be a big test.”
Cooper said Ben Bishop will start in goal tonight for the Lightning. Bishop has started the last two games for the Bolts, winning both and allowing just one goal combined…Defenseman Luke Witkowski was recalled from AHL Syracuse, two days after he was sent back to the Crunch. “We don’t have enough players,” Cooper said when asked why Witkowski returned. “You’ve got to have an extra just in case, so it’ll be a game-time decision whether Luke’s in or not.”…Cooper said Ondrej Palat, who suffered a lower-body injury November 7 at Minnesota and was expected to miss three to five weeks, still has some time before he will be able to rejoin the lineup. “He’s still a ways away,” Cooper said. “Hopefully, maybe on the California trip, he’ll get to jump on the ice with us maybe…The Lightning are 7-0-0 this season when leading after two periods but 0-6-0 when trailing after two…With two goals on Saturday, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is now tied for sixth in the NHL for goals (11)…Tampa Bay’s penalty kill has gone three-straight games without allowing a power-play goal and is 44-of-49 (89.8%) over its last 17 games.