TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning are not exactly limping home following a successful five-game road trip.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t have wounds to heal before hosting a Philadelphia Flyers team arriving at Amalie Arena with some injuries of their own.
Tampa Bay returns home after collecting eight of 10 points on the road, but the Lightning lost captain Steven Stamkos for four months to a knee injury along the way. Tampa Bay is also missing top defenseman Anton Stralman, who has missed five games with an undisclosed upper-body injury suffered on Nov. 12 against San Jose.
Though Jonathan Drouin returned to the lineup, the effects of those missing and those playing through injuries — Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula have also missed games — is taking a toll that was evident in a loss to Nashville on Monday.
"We just looked like a tired group," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "That was a winnable hockey game for us, and we let it slip. We have to regroup for Wednesday."
Boyle said the lack of the right energy was noticeable.
"We had the speed that we normally would play with, but we’re not working hard enough," he said. "That’s on us. We have to be way better. It’s an easy game if a team isn’t pressuring you, not being on top of you, not hitting you. We just weren’t skating ourselves into position."
Though Stralman’s status has remained day-to-day, he skated with the team for the first time during Monday’s morning skate, although he was wearing a designated no-contact red jersey.
One player the Flyers know they will be missing is center Sean Couturier, who left Tuesday’s 3-1 victory at Florida following a collision with Vincent Trocheck in the second period. Couturier had to be helped off the ice and was unable to put any weight on his left leg.
The team reported that Couturier was being sent back to Philadelphia for further evaluation and is ruled out for Wednesday’s game against Tampa Bay. Both the Philadelphia Inquirer and CSN Philadelphia reported the injury was a knee strain and the evaluation was to determine if surgery was required.
"It looked like (Couturier) got tangled up. I heard him yelling there," Mason told the Inquirer. "He was obviously in some pain."
Mason, meanwhile, earned first star honors for the victory at Florida, making 38 saves in his fourth consecutive start, which included Saturday’s loss to the Lightning in Philadelphia. With backup Michal Nuervirth out of the lineup and rookie Anthony Stolarz yet to make his NHL debut, Mason’s performance on Tuesday could land him another start despite playing on consecutive nights.
"He was the best player on the ice," winger Dale Weise, who scored his first goal in 16 games, told the Inquirer of Mason.
But Mason deferred any credit directed his way.
"It was a real strong game from the whole team," he said. "I’m going to point to the guys out front. They did a great job of moving bodies and giving me a good lane to the point shots and the shots from the outside."