BUFFALO—Good news for the Lightning: Ryan Callahan and J.T. Miller are back in the lineup.
Callahan missed two games after "re-aggravating something," which implies either a shoulder injury or his back seizing up again, as both have kept him out of games this year. He slots back into his usual spot on the fourth line with Cedric Paquette and Adam Erne.
Miller, who was taken off IR before the game, missed six games with an undisclosed upper-body injury. He skated on the third line with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli.
This gives the Lightning its full complement of healthy forwards for the first time in two and a half months, when Ondrej Palat injured his foot against Vegas on Oct. 26.
"Any coach will tell you, healthy is the key to having success during the season," Cooper said. "Every team is going to lose players, but if you lose them one at a time, and then get them back and somebody else goes, it probably makes it a little bit more manageable."
That was mostly the case for the Lightning, which has rarely had more than one or two injured players out at a time.
This group of 14 is the group the Lightning expect to carry for the season. Danick Martel, who stepped up in his few games recently, is on the team for good. Tampa Bay might end up using a rotation, similar to the one with defensemen. In that case, Cooper thinks the key is in the communication.
"They might not like not being able to play every single night, but they're doing it for the better of the team" he said. "They know that. That's what's been great about this group, everybody's bought into the plan as a group."
Goalie: Louis Domingue