DENVER — After not playing in more than a month, D Mike Kostka found himself in the Lightning lineup six days after he was claimed off waivers from Chicago.
Kostka last played for the Blackhawks on Jan. 26 when he logged 7 minutes, 26 seconds of ice time against Winnipeg, and as the seventh defenseman on Saturday in Dallas, the 28-year-old played 8:42 in his Tampa Bay debut, finishing with a team-high five blocked shots.
“It felt good to get back into it,’’ Kostka said. “I was looking back to the last time I played and didn’t realize that it had been about a month and half ago, so it was nice to get back out there and shake the rust off.’’
It didn’t take long for Kostka to get a feel for being back on the ice when he took a high stick from Alex Chiasson on his fifth shift of the game that required four stitches to close a cut under his left eye. He also was on the unfortunate end of the first Stars’ goal when a redirected puck by Antoine Roussel was heading wide until it struck the skate of Kostka and into the net late in the second period.
But Kostka, who played under Lightning coach Jon Cooper while in Norfolk during the 2011-12 championship season, finds himself penciled back into the lineup on Sunday against Colorado.
“I thought he was fine, for his first game (with Tampa Bay) and his 10th of the season, he gave us minutes,’’ Cooper said.
Though Kostka has been able to practice with the team only three times since joining the team, he has a bit of a jump start because of his familiarity with Cooper and the system which the Lightning play, similar to what he played in Norfolk.
“I think he’s evolved a little bit just as anybody does, but at the roots of his structure is just about the same,’’ Kostka said. “So going in, systemwise, I was pretty familiar with everything, a couple of changes here and there and from game to game just depending on how you are playing. But in general, it definitely makes it easier having the familiarity from a few years ago.’’
Close, but not close enough
C Valtteri Filppula will miss his fourth consecutive game with a nondisplaced fracture in his ankle suffered on Feb. 6, but continues to feel improvement.
Though there was no morning skate on Sunday with Tampa Bay playing back-to-back games, a handful of players did take to the ice including Filppula, who said he can feel the ankle is getting stronger.
“It’s disappointing, I wish I could be playing and this is the time of year you are supposed to be playing and not sitting and watching,’’ Filppula said. “It’s tough, but it doesn’t feel good enough to play right now. It feels better and (Sunday) it actually felt kind of close to being good enough, so hopefully on Tuesday.’’
C Tom Pyatt received a bit of a gift from the Avalanche equipment staff on Sunday when nearly a half-dozen wooden sticks, taped together, were sent to the team hotel.
The sticks belonged to his father, Nelson, who played four seasons with the Colorado Rockies from 1976-80. Nelson Pyatt appeared in 296 career games with Detroit, Washington and the Rockies (now the New Jersey Devils), scoring 71 goals and 63 assists.
Nuts and Bolts
D Keith Aulie and LW B.J. Crombeen are scheduled to be scratched. ... G Ben Bishop will start games on consecutive days for the third time this season. ... Tampa Bay has not won a game in Denver since the 2004 Stanley Cup championship season.