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Lightnings' Drouin ready to contribute in playoffs

Forward was scratched in 20 of 26 postseason games last season

by Corey Long / Correspondent

BRANDON, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin knows things will be different for him this time.

Drouin, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, said he isn't worried about what line he will be on Wednesday for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m., NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-D, FS-F) and he isn't keeping logs on his ice time.

"[I'm] very excited to be here and preparing for the playoffs," Drouin said. "It's a chance for guys like me to step up and play. It's going to be a tough series because that's a good team on the other side of the ice but I'm more confident and more relaxed this time."

At practice Monday at the Brandon Ice Forum, Drouin was on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat. With center Steven Stamkos out for at least the first round and Tyler Johnson possibly out for Game 1, Drouin should get plenty of ice time and opportunities regardless of who he's with.

"I love playing with [Filppula] and [Palat] but I could play with anyone because there are a lot of great players on this team," Drouin said. "It doesn't matter to me if I'm left wing or right wing."

Drouin had nine goals in a 10-game span with Syracuse of the American Hockey League and has scored goals in his first two games since rejoining the Lightning on April 7. Drouin hadn't played with the Lightning since Dec. 30 after he was suspended by the team for failing to show up to a game on Jan. 20. He credits his recent success with working to being more aggressive around the net.

"I was told to just shoot the puck more and just put myself in positions to get pucks around the net," Drouin said. "Before I tried to make the perfect play and sometimes it just isn't there so you're better off shooting the puck."

Although the circumstances surrounding his return to the Lightning may have been forced by injuries, Drouin says he's more prepared to deal with whatever happens in the playoffs be it positive or negative. In 2015, Drouin was a healthy scratch for 20 of 26 playoff games and became vocal about his lack of playing time during the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Video: TBL@NJD: Drouin nets an insurance goal in the 3rd

He's trying to erase memories of the past and prove that he isn't selfish and a distraction in the locker room.

"I'm not that type of guy, I'm always in a good mood," Drouin said. "I'm a positive guy and the guys [in the locker room] know that and they welcomed me back. The more I kept it quiet, the more I focused on working hard and staying sharp. Things were everywhere on the internet and TV so I had to shut that down."

Drouin said that many players reached out to him when he was suspended and he appreciated the support. He isn't sure how the fans will react when he gets on the ice Wednesday for his first home game since Dec. 30 but is ready to deal with it.

"I hope it's positive but I'm going to respect their opinion," Drouin said. "I just want to focus on playing well. I have a little chip on my shoulder. I have stuff to prove. You want to show that you deserve to be in the NHL, you deserve your shot. I have lot of stuff to show to the fans, to myself and to my teammates in here."

Although Johnson did not participate in practice Monday and remains questionable, defenseman Victor Hedman and forwards Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan all were full participants and should be ready for Game 1.

Hedman said he could have played in a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday but the team decided to sit him out. Callahan missed the final three games of the regular season with a lower body injury and Kucherov missed the game Saturday with a foot injury.

"If they skated today there's a good chance they will be ready to play Wednesday," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "The only one that's still a little uncertain is [Johnson]."

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