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Lightning's Johnson feels like he can play

Tampa Bay center hoping to be in the lineup for Game 1 against Detroit

by Corey Long / Correspondent


Eastern Conference First Round

TV: 7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-D, FS-F

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson participated in an optional morning skate and likely will play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Detroit Red Wings at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.

Johnson said he was waiting for the coaches to make a decision but sounded like someone that was expecting to be in the lineup.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "I'll have to wait and see but I feel good. It's up to those guys."

Johnson's health was an issue during the Stanley Cup Final last year when a wrist injury limited his effectiveness in that series. He said very few players are fully healthy at any point during the playoffs.

"I think if you go through the locker rooms of both teams, or any team that's in the playoffs, there's not many guys are 100 percent," Johnson said. "As long as you can do your job well that's really all that matters."

The series will be a rematch of a 2015 Eastern Conference First Round series won by the Lightning in seven games.

Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said he wouldn't be surprised if the series went deep again.

"It was a fun series last year," Zetterberg said. "We played good enough last year to go through but they did it. They found a way to win and they went all the way to the Final. So we have to find that extra thing to take us over the hump."

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said that it was likely he would play Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk together on a line for at least the first two games.

"I'm not necessarily trying to just do what's best for them but what's best for the whole hockey team," Blashill said. "Being on the road gives me the ability to see what works and what adjustments I want to make when we get home."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he feels the difference in the mood as the playoffs begin but doesn't want to put much emphasis on Game 1. In Game 1 of last year's series the Lightning outshot the Red Wings 46-14 but lost 3-2.

"I don't know if we've won a Game 1 since I've been here," Cooper said. "I've been part of five playoff series but we lost Game 1 against Detroit and against the [New York] Rangers [in the Eastern Conference Final] but we won the series. That being said, we really want to win Game 1."

Ben Bishop will get the start in net for Lightning. Jimmy Howard will be in goal for the Red Wings.

Here are the projected lines:


Justin Abdelkader - Pavel Datsyuk - Henrik Zetterberg

Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Tatar

Darren Helm - Brad Richards - Dylan Larkin

Andreas Athanasiou - Luke Glendening - Joakim Andersson

Danny DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey

Niklas Kronwall - Alexey Marchenko

Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Green

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Injured: Drew Miller (knee), Johan Franzen (concussion)

Scratched: Brendan Smith, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen


Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin

J.T. Brown - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Vladislav Namestnikov - Brian Boyle - Mike Blunden

Victor Hedman- Matthew Carle

Jason Garrison- Andrej Sustr

Braydon Coburn - Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured: Anton Stralman (fractured left leg), Steven Stamkos (blood clot surgery)
Scratched: Jonathan Marchessault, Matt Taormina, Erik Condra

Status report: When Zetterberg was asked about why he liked playing with Datsyuk, he said, "Who wouldn't want to play with Pavel Datsyuk?" ... Glendening said he expects to be assigned to Johnson's line for much of the series. "He's a guy with a lot of skill and someone that you want to keep the puck off his stick," Glendening said. ... Condra was one of the last players off the ice after the optional skate. It appears that Blunden will be in the lineup ahead of him.

Who's hot: Drouin has two goals in his first two games since returning from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on April 7. ...Sheahan scored a goal in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers in the regular-season finale.

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