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Stamkos says playing 'best thing for' Drouin

Lightning captain, Callahan support return from suspension

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Tuesday that Jonathan Drouin made the right decision to come back to play in the American Hockey League.

Stamkos said he spoke to Drouin during the forward's suspension and hopes things work out for the best.

"We'll see what happens," Stamkos said. "It's a tough situation and there's nothing that we can do about it now. Guys have talked to him; I had a chance to talk to him during this process and he came to the realization that getting back to playing was the best thing for him."

Drouin, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, had his suspension lifted Monday and reported to Syracuse. The 20-year-old, who was suspended by the Lightning on Jan. 20 for failing to report to an AHL game, practiced with the Crunch on Tuesday.

Drouin asked to be moved prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, but he was not. He requested a trade in November through his agent, Allan Walsh.

Drouin said Tuesday he believes his relationship with the Lightning can be saved.

"I think our relationship's fine. We've talked to make the decision to come back here,'' he said in Syracuse. "I think we're going to fix this in the summer and see how it goes from there."

Drouin was hampered by injuries this season and had two goals and eight points in 19 NHL games. He had four goals and 32 points in 70 games last season as a rookie.

Syracuse next plays Friday, and has games Saturday and Sunday.

Lightning alternate captain Ryan Callahan said Drouin has a bright future in the NHL and would be welcomed back in the Tampa Bay locker room.

"He's a very talented player and it's good to see," Callahan said. "He wants to come back and he wants to play. I don't know the whole situation in and out and everything that went on. But [Drouin] has been a great guy for us in the room. Everybody loves him, so it's good to see him back and playing again."

Callahan said Drouin wouldn't be judged on the decision he made to sit out and wait for a trade. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said Monday that if Drouin plays well and is "in the right frame of mind" he could be recalled this season.

"He's one of us; you don't lose trust in somebody," Callahan said. "Everybody makes their own decisions and once you step in that room you're one of us."

Stamkos said Drouin never allowed his issues with the Lightning management to affect anyone else on the team.

"I'm not one to judge on things when you don't know the full story," Stamkos said. "I think we're all happy he's gotten back to playing, and whatever happens, happens."

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