From Monday’s practice: The point seems to be close to a return, and COVID concerns are growing

There was some good news about Tampa Bay Lightning’s training on Monday at AMALIE Arena, their last day of preparation, before returning to action from the holiday season.

Brayden Point, who has missed the past 14 games with an upper body injury after being stumbled upon by an outburst and slammed hard into the end wall on Nov. 20 against New Jersey, practiced in a regular jersey, took line rushes as second line center and skated inside. his usual spot on the top power-play unit, signaling that he might return as early as Tuesday when Lightning hosts the Montreal Canadiens at the AMALIE Arena (19.00 puck drop).

Who will line up with him is still unknown.

One day after the Lightning announced goalkeepers Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott, forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, defender Mikhail Sergachev and assistant coach Rob Zettler went into the COVID protocol, two Bolts more succumbed to the COVID test Monday morning. Anthony Cirelli into the COVID protocol, Tampa Bay assistant coach Derek Lalonde said Cirelli should be pulled out of the room as the team was about to start its pre-training session. Also defender Andrej Sustr, who was recalled from the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch to the newly created taxi team earlier Monday morning, was also placed in the COVID protocol.

These six players and Zettler join head coach Jon Cooper on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. Cooper became the first Lightning player or coach to be forced to miss a game due to COVID this season as he had to sit out Tampa Bay’s 4-3 win in Vegas in his final game before the holiday break on December 21st.

Unfortunately, it seems that Lightning will not be so lucky to escape the effects of the virus in the near future.

After Monday’s training, Lightning Captain Steven Stamkos was asked if the team should just assume that situations like the last few days will continue to happen and not know who will be in the queue on a daily basis.
“Yes, that’s definitely the world we’re in right now,” Stamkos replied. “Especially with the new variant, what we hear is that it’s very transferable, so there’s probably going to be more even after today. That’s just the way it is right now. We just want guys to, if they get it, feel “be okay and come back in as little time as possible so they can help our team. When you say that, you just hope everyone has very mild symptoms and that it does not spread to their families or anything like that.”

As both regular goalkeepers were unavailable, Lightning turned to goalkeeping coach Frantz Jean and Kyle Konin, a native of Clearwater who served as an assistant goalkeeper for St. Louis. Louis Blues in their match against Lightning on December 2 at AMALIE Arena, to fill the nets. in practice on Monday.

“I give our boys credit, yesterday was probably a tough day for them to get their heads wrapped up about having a productive workout,” Lalonde said, referring to the Bolts’ workout on Sunday, where they were also without Vasilevskiy and Elliott. “We’re showing up, we’re down with one more coach, already down for our head coach in Jon Cooper. We’s down with a couple of players. Literally they did not know who was going to start training because minute by minute we got the results from the COVID tests.And then they show up and Frantzi prepares and we have a shooting instructor at one end.We talked to them about being professional, let’s be productive.We made the exercise simple around it.And then I had a little talk with our management team today where I just asked them to lead in the fact that we should not have an NHL goalkeeper again today.We should have an emergency goalkeeper, our goalkeeping coach should be with the net but we “Have to have a productive practice. Give the boys a ton of credit, and I thought today was a very productive and good practice going forward.”

The Lightning recalled goalkeepers Maxime Lagace and Hugo Alnefelt from AHL Syracuse to solve their problems in the net. Lagace last appeared in an NHL game with the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 8, 2021, making all 29 saves against the Buffalo Sabers to record his first NHL shutout of his career.

Alnefelt, the Bolts’ third-round pick in the 2019 Draft, has appeared in six games for Syracuse this season, going 2-3-1 with 3.56 goals against the average and 0.864 save percentage. He has yet to play in an NHL game.

Both have not rehearsed with Lightning yet, but were due to arrive in time to take part in the team’s optional morning skate on Tuesday ahead of the match against Montreal.

“Of course not ideal for any of these goalkeepers, but will get a morning skate, will have some time with Frantz and hopefully, like everything else, our boys will pick them up and understand what they are up against and they will play a little more responsible, be a little more predictable and a little tougher in front of them, “Lalonde said.

The Lightning is not the only team dealing with COVID issues. Virtually every team in the NHL is also their next opponent. Montreal announced Monday that four defenders – Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Jeff Petry and Chris Wideman – and goalkeeper Jake Allen were placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. The Canadiens already had Laurent Dauphin, Mike Hoffman, Artturi Lehkonen and Tyler Toffoli on the list, prompting some to speculate, including Lightning players, whether Tuesday’s game would be played at all.

“Like the Vegas game, we have to prepare as if we are going to play,” Stamkos said. “Of course a lot of things can change, but that’s what we’ve been doing the last few days. We had a skate just to get back to it yesterday and a more structured workout today, so for the guys out there on the ice, we have been told to prepare to play.Unfortunate what is happening around the league, how many teams have to deal with COVID issues right now, including ourselves, but I do not think much will change “In the next few weeks, the teams will have to adjust on the move and we will have to do the same.”

The positive for Lightning is that there is a decent chance they will have Points on Tuesday to help offset some of the losses, especially Cirellis. Point train line rushes with the second line when training between Alex Killorn and Mathieu Joseph. And he was back in his usual bumper position on the top power-play unit.

“Get close. Feels pretty good, still a little rusty of course,” Point said when asked if he’s eager to return to the lineup. “I think everyone somehow gets off that Christmas break. Yeah, excited to take full reps into practice. Really looking forward to playing again.”

Lalonde said it would be up to the medical staff to clear Point tomorrow early to see if he would be able to return to the Canadiens.

“When Cirelli goes on the protocol, he will simply just slip into one of our top six center spots,” Lalonde said. “It will give us a boost on our powerplay again. I know he has not skated a little bit after that injury, but he has come back and he has had some pop and he has had some jumps with him. It we expect “I will hopefully translate to tomorrow. I do not know if that’s a sure thing. It’s still a medical decision tomorrow whether he wants to join, but he’s definitely day-to-day right now. We would expect him to have a big impact on our lineup tomorrow night if he is able to play. “

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