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Lightning's Drouin sent to AHL for conditioning stint

by Corey Long

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin was reassigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League for a conditioning assignment Thursday.

Drouin, the third pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, has practiced with the Lightning since training camp ended but has not played in any of their first four games. He missed time in camp with a fractured right thumb and did not play in any preseason games.

Drouin said the thumb is healed but he understands the Lightning's decision.

"It's hard to jump into the NHL after four weeks of no games," Drouin said. "This will be good for my timing and hopefully I can get off to a good start down there so I don't come back here and have a bad game right away."

Lightning assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said that Drouin likely will play for Syracuse through next weekend.

"Essentially it's his training camp," BriseBois said. "He hasn't had a training camp. He needs to get some reps to get his timing back."

BriseBois said the key is making sure Drouin is ready for the pace of NHL play.

"It's a big step going from junior to NHL regular-season games, especially without the benefit of a training camp," BriseBois said. "Mostly we just want him to get as close to having played NHL games as possible before throwing him into one. Usually a player in his situation would have benefited from preseason games. He didn't have that opportunity so we're giving him the second-best thing to that, which is AHL regular-season games."

Drouin practiced with the Lightning on Thursday before they departed to Vancouver for the start of a 10-day road trip. He said he's been dealing with full contact in the past few practices.

"Guys have been hitting me and slashing me," Drouin said. "The thumb is healed."

Drouin is No. 1 on the Top 60 prospect ranking.

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