Lightning C Tyler Johnson returns to ice with two assists vs. Oilers
TAMPA, Fla. — It took some convincing, but center Tyler Johnson worked his way back into the Tampa Bay Lightning’s lineup on Thursday.
Johnson was considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury he sustained during a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday, but he started on Thursday night in Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers at Amalie Arena. He finished with two assists in 17:35 of ice time, and he was pleased with his showing in the return.
"I kind of had to work for that," Johnson said of his comeback. "To be honest with you, I couldn’t tell you exactly when I could play. It’s just one of those things we decided that worst-case scenario, we’ve got five days’ rest coming up here. … But I felt pretty good. I thought we made the right call."
Earlier in the day, Johnson participated in morning skate with a red no-contact jersey. After the workout, coach Jon Cooper said Johnson could return sometime before the All-Star break begins after Tampa Bay hosts the Vancouver Canucks next Tuesday. But Johnson had another plan in mind, and Cooper decided to trust the young player.
"We didn’t know this morning he was going to play tonight," Cooper said. "But I’ve been with him a long time. The kid’s a gamer. We never put a player at risk. But we weren’t sure how he was going to feel. But after the skate, we had a good feeling."
Johnson’s return meant the continuation of a strong season for him. Last Saturday, he was named to his first All-Star Game as one of two Lightning representatives (Steven Stamkos the other) in the event to be held on Jan. 25 at Nationwide Arena. Johnson has 48 points with 31 assists, both of which are team-high totals this season.
"If you’re asking if I’m 100 percent, no," Johnson said. "But I don’t know if I’ve been 100 percent since training camp. It’s just one of those things that you’ve got to battle through stuff. I’m a hockey player. You’ve just got to play."