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Stamkos: Drouin's trade request not a distraction

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Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said forward Jonathan Drouin's request to be traded came as a surprise but it hasn't been a distraction.

"Obviously everyone's entitled to their own opinion," Stamkos said after practice Monday at Scotiabank Saddledome, where the Lightning play the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. "[Drouin] has been a great kid for us since we drafted him. He's been a great teammate. If that stuff's been bothering him, he hasn't let that come into the [dressing] room."

The Lightning assigned Drouin, the third player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft, to Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Saturday. He had one goal and six points in his first five games this season and missed 19 games because of injuries. Since returning, he has one goal and two points in 14 games.

Drouin reported to Syracuse and addressed media there briefly Tuesday morning.

"I'm not going to answer any questions about the trade request; it's between my agent and (Lightning general manager) Steve (Yzerman)," Drouin told Sportsnet.

Drouin's agent, Allan Walsh, released a statement Sunday that he "formally requested a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning back in November" and chose to keep the situation from the public since then.

Drouin was non-committal Tuesday on whether he thought he had played his last game for the Lightning.

"It's hard to say," Drouin told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's up to me to prove that I can go back up there."

Stamkos said Drouin's situation and request to be traded haven't caused any problems with his teammates.

"When he's been up and playing, he's shown great effort," said Stamkos, the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. "He's been a pro every time he's been at the rink. To the best of our knowledge, he's going to go down there and get better as a player. Obviously we're pulling for him."

Stamkos said Drouin is going through a learning process.

"When it's game time, you have to go and do your job; the rest of that stuff is out of your control," he said. "I learned that pretty quick coming into the League at a young age; it doesn't always happen right away. It's a process. Some take longer than others. The ones that persevere through that can have great careers, and I think Jonathan can have that.

"He's still our teammate. Nothing's happened. This can all go away. There could be a trade, there could not. He could go down there, have a great run in the minors, get called up and play great, and it's all in the past. We don't know what’s going to happen."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Drouin was sent to the AHL because he was the odd man out on a team that's getting healthy.

"Jonathan Drouin is an NHLer … he just got caught in a situation where he's been, literally, hurt for almost three months," Cooper said. "He comes back for a few games and then he's out. He's never been able to get his stride back to where he was at the end of training camp and the first few games of the year.

"The second thing is that we kind of got all our guys back [from injuries] at the same time. We've been hurt for so long, but he's been one of the guys who was hurt. When he's one of the last guys to come back, it's hard to start putting guys back in the lineup and giving them good minutes."

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