By Dory LeBlanc
On the heels of Sean Leahy's comments to WDAE on the possible moves for Tampa Bay as the trade deadline approaches, Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper told the media after today's pre-game skate that the team feels they will be the biggest winners this week regardless of who they acquire before Wednesday's 3:00 pm trade deadline; they will soon get Steven Stamkos back from injury.
"We have a good nucleus here and we're probably going to make the biggest deal of the deadline," Cooper said. "No, it's not what you're thinking. It's we're going to get No. 91 back. And to me? No team is picking up a 60-goal scorer, so that's good for us."
Stamkos has been out since breaking his tibia in Boston on November 11th and the Lightning are currently sitting in third place behind the Bruins and Canadiens in the Atlantic Division, and with 73 points are fourth overall in the Eastern Conference.
The Bolts finish up their four-game roadtrip tonight when they take on the 40-14-6 Blues and will be without Radko Gudas, who is sidelined with a lower body injury he suffered Sunday against the Avalanche. Cooper confirmed that Gudas will be out for tonight's tilt and will be evaluated when the team returns to Tampa. His status for the time being remains day-to-day.
The contest will be the second matchup of the two teams this season; in the first, the Lightning took the tilt 4-2 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Cooper said the Blues know what to expect from the Bolts this time around.
"We've probably lost our way a little bit here since coming back from the (Olympic) break," Cooper said, "But when we got the speed going - that's what pushes teams back. We played St. Louis this year and that's why we beat them, because I think our speed surprised them a little bit. It won't happen this time. [They're] definitely coming into this game eyes a lot more wide open then when they played us and didn't know who half our roster was."
One of the players who helped Tampa Bay celebrate the victory over the Blues was Valtteri Fillpula, who lit the lamp to give the Bolts the two-goal lead in November. After suffering a non-disclosed ankle fracture on February 6th that caused the center to miss the Olympics for Team Finland and sit out the past three games, Cooper is uncertain if Filppula will make his return tonight, calling it a game-time decisions when asked.
The Lightning will also have a tough battle ahead at the Scottrade Center with the Blues flexing their new muscles between the pipes.
Goaltender Ryan Miller will make his home debut tonight in net for the Blues, after making 23 saves last night for St. Louis against the Coyotes in Phoenix. Miller was acquired, along with agitator Steve Ott last Friday in a deal that sent goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier and this year's first- and third-round draft picks to Buffalo in exchange for the 10-year veteran netminder and forward.
To hear Cooper following Tuesday's pre-game skate, click the player below, courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning.