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Saturday, Nov 17, 2018
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Bolts’ Drouin reports to AHL Syracuse, vows to work hard

— LW Jonathan Drouin reported for work on Tuesday, practicing with the Syracuse Crunch for the first time since he was suspended by the Lightning on Jan. 20.

Drouin was reinstated on Monday after he expressed interest in returning. After practice in Syracuse, Drouin spoke publicly for the first time since refusing to play for Tampa Bay’s minor league team in January, saying he wished things had worked out differently, but he’s ready to move forward.

“Obviously, I wish it maybe went the other way,’’ Drouin told reporters in Syracuse. “But it happened that way, and it’s going to be fixed in the summer. In the summer ... we’ll figure it out.’’

Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman indicated on Monday that all possibilities regarding Drouin remain open — from a call-up to Tampa Bay this season to a trade during the summer.

Drouin also left the door open for a reconciliation, despite any hard feelings that might have developed since being reassigned to the minors. The relationship between he and the club is salvageable, he said.

“I think our relationship’s fine,’’ Drouin said. “I think we’re going to fix this in the summer and see how it goes from there.’’

Any possibility he could be called up to the Lightning in the final month of the season, Drouin said, depends on him.

“It’s going to be up to me to put in the work,’’ he said. “I’m not just going to get called up to get called up. I have to put in the work here, and that’s what I plan to do.’’

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft worked out at Concordia University near his Montreal home during his suspension. After the trade deadline went by on Feb. 29, he realized how much he missed playing and being around teammates.

That prompted the 20-year-old to reach out to Yzerman to express interest in returning.

“Sitting at home is not what I wanted to do. I want to play hockey, help the Crunch,’’ he said. “I’m happy to be back here and playing hockey. I’m a hockey player. You love hockey. You want to be part of a team.’’

Drouin wanted to make sure that point was clear in his conversation with Yzerman last week.

“I want to play hockey, I wanted to make sure Steve was all right with that,’’ he said. “We had a good conversation.’’

The second-year forward with 89 games of NHL experience knows his image and reputation were damaged and he’ll have to prove himself on the ice, in the locker room and to fans.

“You definitely care how people see you,” he said. “It’s going to be up to my play on the ice to show that I was ready to come back and play hockey.”

Thin blue line

Injuries to D Braydon Coburn and D Andrej Sustr left the team thin on defense. Coburn missed his second consecutive game with an undisclosed lower-body injury, while Sustr, who missed three games with an upper-body injury, was back in the lineup.

But Anton Stralman missed the game with an illness, the first game he has missed in two seasons with Tampa Bay and just the second he’s missed since 2012-13.

With that in mind, Tampa Bay recalled D Luke Witkowski from Syracuse on an emergency basis but reassigned him when the Lightning were able to dress six healthy defensemen.

With Coburn and Stralman out Tuesday, it marked just the second game this season — and the second in as many nights — that Tampa Bay was without more than one defenseman.

“This is kind of a first for us,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “And when it rains, it pours. I don’t want to say we are long term banged up back there, but we are nicked up. If guys are struggling to play in games, we can’t push this, we can’t put guys at risk. It tests your farm system.’’

D Matt Carle said it was just a matter of adapting.

“It’s something you deal with every year and that’s us right now,’’ Carle said. “All the guys are used to playing together. It’s just a matter of us making those adjustments.”

First point

D Slater Koekkoek registered his first career point in Monday’s loss, picking up the primary assist on LW Ondrej Palat’s goal in the first period.

“It’s nice to get it, but ... if we lost, it doesn’t mean anything now,’’ said Koekkoek, whose shot generated a rebound that went straight to Palat in front of an open net. The play Koekkoek made to pick up that point did not go unnoticed.

“You always wish that someone’s first point would be a goal, but he made a great play there,’’ Cooper said. “He kept it in and got the puck to the net.’’

Nuts and Bolts

RW Erik Condra was scratched. ... G Ben Bishop started his 50th game of the season.

Erik Erlendsson

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