Cooper expects Coburn to play in Game 1 for Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn had two assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-3 in four games with Tampa Bay before the injury.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

BRANDON, Fla. — After an encouraging outlook from Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on Wednesday, defenseman Braydon Coburn appears ready to open the Stanley Cup Playoffs as part of the lineup.

Cooper said Coburn, out since sustaining a lower-body injury on March 10, is looking "pretty good" after the Lightning practiced on Wednesday as final preparations continued before opening their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday at Amalie Arena.

"I would expect him to be in there," Cooper said.

Coburn, 30, was gained in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers on March 2. He had two assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-3 in four games with Tampa Bay before the injury. He missed extended time on two other occasions this season with a broken foot as part of Philadelphia.

"I know what I have to do to get myself game-ready," Coburn said. "And it has been a process, just like the other two times this year."

The Lightning also received a positive health development with defenseman Jason Garrison, who skated in practice Wednesday without a red no-contact jersey. He has been out since sustaining an upper-body injury on March 28. Cooper said Garrison likely won’t return Thursday, but it’s possible that the veteran could be seen later in the series if it goes long.

Still, the Lightning received news of Coburn’s likely return with open arms. A significant piece of Tampa Bay’s blue line is close to a comeback.

"He’s tough to play against," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "I know when we played against Philly, he was one of those guys that we didn’t want to be on the ice against. … He brings a lot to our team. It’s obviously going to be exciting if he’s back tomorrow. He’s real tough to play against, and he’s a great, solid defenseman."

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