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Tyler Johnson to make season debut tonight versus Vancouver

Since returning to practice, Johnson has been skating on the second line with Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point

by Bryan Burns /

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson, who missed the second half of training camp and the Bolts' season opener Saturday versus Florida with an upper-body injury, is good to go for game No. 2 tonight against the Vancouver Canucks at AMALIE Arena.

Johnson only skated in one preseason game for the Lightning and wore a red, no-contact jersey once he returned to practice. But prior to the season opener, he was cleared for contact and he continued training this week without any limitations. The fact the Lightning had four days between their first and second game helped Johnson get back into the lineup without missing more than just the one game.

"Anytime you watch hockey, it's kind of frustrating," Johnson said following Thursday's morning skate. "I'd rather be playing. It just happened that way. I guess in a way I was lucky we had such a big break after that first one. Now I'm ready for this one."

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said Johnson was arguably one of Tampa Bay's best players before getting hurt in training camp.

"This year he came in (to training camp) and loved the way he looked," Cooper said. "His testing was unreal and a big part of his game is his skating, and so he needs to be able to do that and be able to keep his endurance…Whatever's been working for this offseason, he's done a really good job. He looks good."

Video: Johnson: "Good to Go"

Johnson played in 81 regular season games last season, tallying 21 goals and 50 points, reaching the 20-goal and 50-point milestone for the third time in his career and first time since the 2014-15 season. Tonight, he'll skate on the right wing alongside Yanni Gourde (left wing) and Brayden Point (center).

"They're both tremendous players," Johnson said. "They're fun to play with. They're guys that are very tenacious and kind of just work extremely hard and have the skill to make things happen. Looking forward to playing with them, looking forward to just using our speed and getting after them on the forecheck and hopefully disrupt a little bit and create some opportunities and chances."

Since a 2-1 shootout victory over Florida in the season opener, the Lightning have had to sit around and wait for their next game while some teams, like divisional foe Toronto, are already on game No. 5. The Bolts used the extra practice time to clean up some of the deficiencies from their opening game.

But they're ready to hit an opponent for a change rather than a teammate.

"Yeah, it's been really weird to see teams play three, four, five games already and we're stuck at one," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "We're anxious to get back into the swing of things, just get back into a regular routine. I think after tonight it'll even itself out a little bit. We want to improve on our game Opening Night. We didn't think it was good enough."

Video: Cooper on Tyler Johnson and the Vancouver Canucks

Is having so much practice time early in the season valuable?

Well, it depends who you're talking to, Stamkos said.

"If you ask the coaches, it's probably great. You ask the players, it sucks, especially coming right off camp where all you feel like you're doing is on the ice practicing," he said. "You want to play. We just want to play. We want to get out there and just get the legs going again, get back into that routine. If you ask us, we just want to get out there and play some hockey."

The Lightning will finally get to play some more hockey tonight when they host the Canucks.

And with Johnson back in the mix, they'll have nearly their whole complement of players as only Ryan Callahan remains out. He's on schedule to return in early November from offseason shoulder surgery.

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