DETROIT — The plight of Tom Pyatt continued Sunday.
Pyatt garners heaps of praise when he plays, yet he has found it hard to stay in the lineup. Sunday against Detroit marked the third consecutive game he was a healthy scratch and the fourth time in the past six games.
Prior to that, when Tampa Bay was dealing with injuries, Pyatt played in 12 consecutive games, picking up three goals and five points while playing an effective fourth-line style.
“He’s been great and fills a lot of holes for us in certain ways,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “But on the other hand, I think he can be a certain fit against teams.’’
Though Pyatt took part in pregame warm-ups Sunday, Cooper opted to dress seven defensemen and scratched Pyatt again.
Pyatt suffered a broken collarbone in the third game of the season that kept him out for two months, but he has been in and out of the lineup when healthy despite his quality of play when he’s on the ice.
Through it all, Pyatt is trying to maintain a positive outlook.
“It’s been a frustrating year,’’ Pyatt said. “Out for the start, then in and out of the lineup, felt like I’ve played some pretty good hockey. But when you have 15 forwards, it makes it tough. There’s nothing I can really do but stay positive and keep playing well and hopefully get back in soon.’’
During conversations with the coaching staff, Pyatt has been told his exclusion from the lineup has nothing to do with his play.
“I just need to stay patient,’’ Pyatt said. “Guys are going to be in and out heading toward the playoffs, so hopefully I can be a part of that. I really want to be in the lineup for that. So it is frustrating, but there’s nothing I can really do.’’
Rookie LW J.T. Brown has been a stalwart on the third line since he was called up Nov. 12. But Saturday in Buffalo, the speedy winger made the jump up to the first line with C Steven Stamkos and RW Teddy Purcell.
The promotion came despite the fact Brown has not scored a goal since Dec. 23, when he scored twice at Florida, a span of 36 games without a goal after Sunday’s loss.
Brown has 10 assists in that span, including on Stamkos’ goal late in the first period against Buffalo, which Brown created by using his speed on the forecheck to force a turnover.
“I’m sure he’s a little rattled inside that he hasn’t scored, but I’d be hard-pressed to say anybody has outworked J.T. Brown in a hockey game or done a lot of the dirty-work things that Brownie does,’’ Cooper said. “We are not measuring J.T. Brown in goals. ... He does so many other good things for us and he makes other guys better. His work ethic and puck retrievals and he doesn’t back down from anybody and his tenacity helps lines.
“It’s going to be the guys like him that score a big goal at some point when you really, really need it and it will be unexpected coming from him. But usually those are the guys that usually score them.’’
Brown said he is not letting the lack of offense affect his game.
“Obviously I’d like to be scoring and doing more to help the team,’’ Brown said. “You don’t want to focus too much on that and get down on things, you just want to focus on other things and keep playing well.’’
With the season over for a pair of Lightning prospects, general manager Steve Yzerman said there is a chance that some could come in to join Syracuse for the end of the Crunch season.
RW Adam Erne, whose Quebec team lost in the opening round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs, would need to be signed to a contract or a tryout agreement before the 33rd overall pick in the 2013 draft can join the Crunch. Yzerman said he would be in touch with Erne’s agent.
Matthew Peca, a seventh-round pick in 2011, is another possibility after Quinnipiac University lost its opening-round game in the NCAA tournament to Providence. In order for Peca to join Syracuse, he would have to leave school and give up his senior season to sign a pro contract. Yzerman said he has yet to hear from Peca regarding his immediate plans.
Joel Vermin, a seventh-round pick in 2013 out of Switzerland, already has been assigned to Syracuse after his season with Bern of the Swiss-A League ended. Vermin had six goals and 18 points in 49 games.
Nuts and Bolts
The Lightning announced plenty of tickets remain for Tuesday’s likely playoff preview matchup against Montreal. ... Tampa Bay scratched D Keith Aulie, LW Ryan Malone, RW B.J. Crombeen, C Cody Kunyk and Pyatt. ... C Valtteri Filppula extended his scoring streak to 12 games, the longest active streak in the league.
— Erik Erlendsson