TAMPA — For the Tampa Bay Lightning’s upcoming four-game road trip through Western Canada, head coach Jon Cooper will take a page out of Joe Maddon’s playbook with a team theme for the players.
Maddon has been doing theme trips for the Rays in recent seasons — hockey jersey, college jerseys, Johnny Cash — with everybody dressed in that theme.
“I haven’t spoken with Joe (Maddon) in a while but I’ve picked up a few ideas from some wily veterans,’’ Cooper said.
With the Lightning departing today for Vancouver to start a nine-day trip through Canada, players will wear a jersey from a previous junior, college or youth team in which they played for on their path to the NHL.
“It is recognition of where guys have played and going through a sort of hockey hotbed of North America, we give a little recognition for where these guys came from and some of the teams they played for,’’ Cooper said. “I think it’ll be fun for the guys, you get to find out about teams you probably never even knew existed or guys ever played for, so it will give an opportunity for guys to talk about their teams, where they came from.’’
For some players finding a jersey has been a bit of a challenge, but for others all it took was a quick phone call, such as Tyler Johnson, who will be wearing a sweater from the Spokane Chiefs. Johnson played four seasons with his hometown junior team from 2007-08 to 2010-11, helping Spokane win a Memorial Cup in 2008.
“I was lucky, I called my old junior general manager and he was able to send one down for me,’’ Johnson said. “I’m excited to be able to wear it again. I was 20 (the last time) and it’s been a couple of years. So it’s great to be able to put it back on.’’
RW Richard Panik returned to the lineup Sunday after sitting out the previous two as a healthy scratch.
The 23-year-old sat out four of five earlier in the month — two due to suspension — before getting back in for four consecutive games, which included notching his second goal of the season on Dec. 19 against Nashville.
It’s all part of the process for getting Panik to play at a consistent level.
“He’s a rookie and this is his learning curve,’’ Cooper said. “I don’t think he played poorly (in recent games) but he didn’t play great and it’s my job to probably get him some more minutes because is a more effective player when he gets more minutes. But we’ve seen progression from him in the last couple of games. ... I still have immense faith in Richard, I know what he can do and I know he’s going to help us.’’
Cooper said he expects LW Ryan Malone (ankle), D Eric Brewer (upper body) and D Sami Salo (upper body) to be ready to play at some point during the upcoming four-game road trip.
Malone has been out since Nov. 22 and has been cleared for full contact while he works his conditioning level back up.
Brewer skated for the third consecutive day, while Salo skated Sunday morning for the first time since Dec. 23.
Dmitry Korobov, who collected his first career point, was reassigned to Syracuse after the game, a sign that either Brewer or Salo, or perhaps both, will be ready to return Wednesday in Vancouver.
On the board
Prospect Adam Erne, the 33rd overall pick in the 2013 draft, notched his first point of the World Junior Championships on Sunday, picking up an assist for U.S.A. during an 8-0 rout of Germany to improve to 3-0 atop Group A. The U.S. will next take on Canada — which plays Slovakia today — and Jonathan Drouin on New Year’s Eve in the final game of group play before the quarterfinals begin on Thursday.
Nuts and Bolts
LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie and LW B.J. Crombeen were scratched. ... Members from Outback Bowl participants Iowa and LSU were in attendance. ... Tampa Bay allowed at least three power-play goals for the third time this season.