Vladislav Namestnikov returns to the lineup tonight after missing three games with a lower body injury.
C Vladislav Namestnikov returns to the lineup tonight after missing three games with a lower body injury. He centered the second line during today’s morning skate between Alex Killorn and Jonathan Drouin.
C Cedric Paquette (lower body) skated but wore the no-contact red jersey. C Tyler Johnson (lower body) was not on the ice. Associate coach Rick Bowness, who addressed the media this morning, said he did not have a timetable on when those two will return.
Also, nothing new to report on C Steven Stamkos, who continues to participate in practices and morning skates.
The Lightning face the Coyotes tonight. It begins the night four points behind the Maple Leafs for the final wild card spot. The Lightning have the schedule makers to thank for tonight’s matchup. The Coyotes have the second-fewest points in the league and are playing the second of back-to-back games. They lost 3-1 on Monday night in Nashville.
But, the Lightning have to return to the form that enabled it to claw back into the playoff picture and not play like it did during consecutive losses to the Maple Leafs (5-0) and Capitals (5-3).
Vladislav Namestnikov returned to practice this morning and said he expects to play Tuesday.
C Vladislav Namestnikov returned to practice this morning and said he expects to play Tuesday when the Lightning host the Coyotes
C Cedric Paquette also practiced today but was wearing a red no-contact jersey. C Tyler Johnson, the third of the three centers injured March 9 against the Wild, still hasn’t practiced.
The lines during practice: Palat, Point, Kucherov; Killorn, Gourde, Erne; Dumont, Namestnikov, Drouin; Brown, McKegg, Witkowski.
Every game is a big game with 11 games remaining and two points out of the second wild card spot heading into tonight’s Maple Leafs-Bruins game. But Tuesday’s is a bit bigger being the Coyotes are 29th out of 30 teams in points and they play tonight in Nashville.
Coach Jon Cooper’s quote of the day: “There’s still a lot of fight left in the dog.”
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos took another step towards his return Friday, encouraged with how he felt after his first full team practice since mid-November knee surgery.
But coach Jon Cooper made it clear that by no means is Stamkos' return imminent. And Stamkos admitted he wasn't sure if he'll be back by the end of the regular season, which has 12 games left.
This week marks the four month mark in the expected 4-6 month recovery, but Stamkos said the four-month expectation was out of the window right away. It's somewhere in the middle.
"When it's 100 percent, I'll be back," Stamkos said Friday, his first comments since surgery. "It's a question I can't answer. I've had a lot of ups and downs in this rehab process, where it feels like it's never going to get better. Then you have a week where it goes through the roof in regards to how you're feeling.
"I'll be playing when it feels ready. And I can't say it feels ready right now. But it was a start." …
Brayden Point has been arguably the Lightning's most consistent forward this season.
There are many that are surprised that Lightning rookie Brayden Point made the team out of camp, much less smoothly stepping in as No. 1 center in a playoff push.
But Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly isn't one of them.
Rielly, who played with Point in juniors with the Moose Jaw Warriors, always felt the 5-foot-10, 166-pound center had the drive and skills to succeed in the NHL.
"I remember watching him at world juniors when I was in Toronto and telling the guys how good he was," Rielly told the Times. "He's always been an underdog a little bit because of his size, but I think he's coming into his own, having an outstanding year and I'm really happy for him."
Point has been arguably the team's most consistent forward this season. And he's been on a roll since returning from an upper-body injury in late January, with 12 points (nine goals, three assists) in the last 18 games. He's been the team's No. 1 center the past three games since Tyler Johnson (lower body) has been sidelined.
Rielly met Point when the Lightning forward was a 15-year-old callup with Moose Jaw. …
Joe Smith and Brian Engblom make the case for Nikita Kucherov, pictured, as an MVP candidate.
Times beat reporter Joe Smith and Lightning color analyst Brian Engblom discuss the behind-the-scenes changes that have sparked the team's remarkable run in this episode of our Lightning Strikes! podcast. We also make the case for Nikita Kucherov as an MVP candidate, talk about Brian Boyle's emotional return to Tampa and the emergence of rookie Brayden Point. Listen here:
"It's huge, it's Game 7 again," defenseman Victor Hedman said of tonight's game.
There's no question tonight's Lightning game with the Maple Leafs has plenty of sizzle, and a lot at stake.
Brian Boyle's likely emotional return to Tampa Bay is a storyline, but even he says to keep in perspective how big this game is for the playoff race. The Lightning is tied with the Islanders for the final wild card spot, Toronto one point behind and a game in hand.
"It's huge, it's Game 7 again," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "All the games will be Game 7 attitude for us. We know it'll be a packed building, fans are going to be loud. Really looking forward to it."
The Lightning will still be short-handed, with centers Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette all out with lower-body injuries. Their status for Saturday's game against the Capitals is unknown.
But this will be the first of two remaining head-to-head matchups with the Leafs (the other April 6 in Toronto), which could go a long way in determining who makes the postseason. Tampa Bay is riding a four-game winning streak, on a 12-2-3 run.
But coach Jon Cooper cautions this game is not a be all, end all. …
"Obviously they got rid of me, they traded me," Brian Boyle said., "I guess they didn't need me that much.''
Veteran center Brian Boyle knows there will naturally be some emotions popping up during warmups Thursday night, when he faces his former Lightning teammates for the first time since a deadline deal to Toronto.
There are some great friendships and memories he built in his two-plus seasons in Tampa Bay, including back-to-back playoff runs. A reunion dinner tonight could be in the cards.
But when the puck drops there will also be motivation, the Lightning having shipped Boyle, 32, to the Maple Leafs Feb. 28 for prospect Byron Froese and a second round pick. Tampa Bay is 6-1-1 since the deadline, pulling to a tie with the Islanders for the final wild card spot.
"Obviously they got rid of me, they traded me - I guess they didn't need me that much," Boyle quipped with a smile. "So I've got to go out and prove, 'Listen, I'm on this team now. I'm here to win.'"
Boyle wasn't upset with the Lightning, doesn't have any ill will. It's more that this will be a huge game for both teams, the Maple Leafs just one point behind the Lightning (with a game in hand). With Toronto coming off what Boyle called an "embarrassing" loss to the Panthers, this will be a ticked-off team coming to Amalie Arena. …
Peter Budaj makes a save on the Rangers' Rick Nash.
Lost in Brayden Point's brilliant 21st birthday performance Monday was the play of veteran backup Peter Budaj.
The Lightning might not have had a chance in its 3-2 win over the Rangers had it not been for Budaj, who made 13 first-period saves to keep it close. Budaj, making his first start in 10 days, thwarted a Chris Kreider breakaway on the opening shift.
"He doesn't stop that, who knows where our momentum goes?" coach Jon Cooper said.
Budaj's play allowed the Lightning to survive a bad first period tied. And with the game tied 2-2 in the third, he made another great stop on a Jimmy Vesey backdoor chance off the rush.
"Without him, it would have been a different game for sure," Point said.
Budaj has made just two starts for the Lightning, a loss in Pittsburgh Mar. 3. The fact Budaj is able to perform so well in this role could play dividends down the stretch (and a strong audition for the backup spot next year). Starter Andrei Vasilevskiyi has been hot, 5-0-1 in his last six starts, but he can't play all of the final 14 games.
As Cooper said, Monday was Budaj's "turn in the rotation." And he certainly didn't disappoint. …
Four days ago, Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov had to be helped off the Amalie Arena with what appeared to be a serious leg injury.
But here was Namestnikov Monday, participating in the morning skate at Madison Square Garden, and a possibility to play tonight against the Rangers, per coach Jon Cooper. Namestnikov said he feels better, that he just got tangled up with Wild's Zach Parise near the boards Thursday.
"I got lucky," Namestnikov said. "It could have been worse."
While Namestnikov could return, neither Tyler Johnson nor Cedric Paquette will play tonight, Cooper said. Both also suffered lower body injuries Thursday. Cooper said Johnson is on the trip, which ends Tuesday in Ottawa, but Paquette is not.
NEW GUY: It's been a whirlwind few weeks for center Byron Froese, who was acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Brian Boyle trade Feb. 29. Froese was recalled today, joining the Lightning skate and there's a "good chance" he'll make his Tampa Bay debut tonight, Cooper said. …
Yanni Gourde scored the game-tying goal in the Lightning's huge 3-2 win over the Panthers.
A player's first NHL goal is always special.
But Lightning rookie wing Yanni Gourde made his unforgettable Saturday night.
Gourde scored the game-tying goal in the Lightning's huge 3-2 win over the Panthers. It came shorthanded during the second period. Gourde stripped Vincent Trocheck at the Tampa Bay blueline, then fought off the Panthers forward the rest of the way. Trocheck slashed, and grabbed Gourde, who finished it off in style.
"It's something you dream about," Gourde said. "A surreal moment."
Said coach Jon Cooper: "It was uplifting for all of us."
Gourde, called up earlier in the week, has been thrust into a top-six role, playing both special teams units after injuries to Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette. Gourde said playing this playoff style hockey fits his style, and he's thrilled to be part of it. Four of his 22 goals in AHL Syracuse came shorthanded, but this came on the biggest stage.
"He's really seizing his moment up here," Cooper said.
Tyler Johnson was one of three Lightning players helped off the ice at different times, all appearing to be favoring their left leg.
The news on the Lightning injuries appears encouraging, with Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette all considered day-to-day with lower body injuries, the team announced today.
But there still doesn't seem to be a definite timetable on when any of the centers will be back. None of them practiced Friday and it would be surprising to see any of them play Saturday against the Panthers at Amalie Arena.
"They all looked bad," associate coach Rick Bowness said. "Only time will tell, we'll see how that goes."
Johnson, Namestnikov and Paquette all had to be helped off the ice at different times, all appearing to be favoring their left leg. Bowness, who has been behind the bench for more than 2,000 NHL games, hasn't seen anything like it.
"Not three centerman go down like that," Bowness said. "Sometimes you get banged out there and it's a stinger and it goes away after 10-15 minutes, but that wasn't the case last night. That was very rare." …
Rookie Brayden Point assumed the No. 1 center role last night, and would appear the leading candidate.
It certainly didn't look good when three Lightning centers - Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette - all had to be helped off the ice during Thursday's 4-1 win over the Wild.
There's expected to be an update later today on just how serious these lower body injuries were, with coach Jon Cooper not seeming overly optimistic last night.
"It doesn't sound encouraging for any of them," Cooper said. "We'll see."
All three - Johnson, Namestnikov and Paquette- were able to leave Amalie Arena last night without the use of crutches. Paquette appeared like his might have been the worst, his left ankle/leg crumpling awkwardly after a third period fall.
Either way, it looks like the Lightning will have to do some juggling at center, which had been its deepest position entering the season. But with captain Steven Stamkos (knee surgery) still out, and veterans Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula traded last week, all of a sudden there's a shortage up the middle. …
The Lightning could really use the All-Star center even more now after Thursday, when center Tyler Johnson and Vladislav Namestnikov left the game with lower body injuries.
Neither looked good, with both Johnson and Namestnikov having to get helped off the ice by teammates within five minutes from each other in the second period. The Lightning announced neither would return tonight, their status going forward.
Namestnikov got tangled up with the Wild's Zach Parise near the right boards, and clutched his left leg in pain as he crumpled to the ice. Then, five minutes later, Johnson got hit into the boards by Nino Niederreiter and remained down on the ice for a minute. Once again, head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan came out and Johnson was helped off, not putting any pressure on his left leg. …
Rookie center Yanni Gourde (65) was moved to the second line with Alex Killorn and Brayden Point.
Coach Jon Cooper shuffled his lines for tonight’s game against the visiting Wild in an effort to produce more goals after his team scored once in regulation during the past two games.
Rookie center Yanni Gourde was moved to the second line with Alex Killorn and Brayden Point. Adam Erne, who took six shots during Monday’s 1-0 overtime loss to the Rangers, is on the third line with Jonathan Drouin and Vladislav Namestnikov. Gabriel Dumont is on the fourth line with Cedric Paquette and J.T. Brown.
The first line remains the same with the Triplets – Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.
“I don’t know, trying to move some things around,” Cooper said after the morning skate. “We just got to get some guys going offensively. What we start with tonight might not be what we finish.”
Johnson, who won a team record 22 faceoffs Monday, said the drought is not for a lack of effort or chances.
“I think we’ve had the opportunities, we’ve had the chances. For whatever reason, they’re not going in,” he said. “We’re missing the net, that kind of thing, but we got to keep doing what we’re doing, bare down a little bit harder and make sure we put them in.”