This morning, while speaking with the local media, head coach Jon Cooper declared J.T. Brown will be out indefinitely and at least through the Detroit series after suffering an upper body injury Friday night in Game 2 against the Detroit Red Wings.
#TBLightning says J.T. Brown out indefinitely with upper body injury.— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) April 16, 2016
#TBLightning Cooper said Brown is out the rest of the series. Not sure beyond that.— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) April 16, 2016
J.T. Brown has been a solid presence in the bottom six forward group having played 78 games in the regular season and averaging just over 13 minutes time on ice throughout the year in addition to the 22 points (8 goals and 14 assists) he had. Looking at the videos (below) of the shot block, it appears to this writer that he may have broken his hand.
And another look. pic.twitter.com/6SuZuOZgrx— Stefan Kubus (@StefanKubus) April 16, 2016
If it is a broken hand, judging from previous injuries, he could be out 4-6 weeks. If surgery is required, it could be longer. 4-6 weeks means he's most likely out for the rest of the playoffs with a chance he could come back late if the Bolts go on a long run.
Replacing Brown will be no easy task. He has been a fixture on the third line playing both his natural right wing and on the left wing. He's often been asked to match up against top lines and has improved his possession metrics from last year to this year. In 2014-15, Brown had a Corsi For Percentage of 49.7% and a Goals For Percentage of 46.9% putting him 12th in both stats among the 13 Lightning forwards with more than 400 minutes of 5v5 ice time. In 2015-16, he had ain increase to 52.2% and 61.8% in both stats corresponding to 6th and 2nd among 13 Lightning forwards. Pretty impressive step up for him.
The best replacement available to the Lightning will be Erik Condra. While he certainly doesn't stack up to what Brown has brought this season, he has had a 54.9% Corsi For Percentage, 2nd among Lightning forwards. Where he pales is in his Goals For Percentage where Condra sports a 45.2%, 9th among Lightning forwards.
The best answer may actually be to move Brian Boyle up to Brown's spot on the left side of the third line with Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan and fill out the bottom line with Vladislav Namestnikov in the middle and some combination of Condra, Mike Blunden, and Jonathan Marchessault on the wings. With the series moving to Detroit for games 3 and 4, it's possible that Mike Blunden and his slower skating sees him make his way to the press box for a couple games. Without the last change to provide favorable match ups, it may be necessary to move him out so he doesn't get exposed. That would leave you with a line of Condra, Namestnikov, and Marchessault with some offensive capability and a power play specialist in Marchessault.
The last option, and knowing Cooper this may be the way we'll see the lineup go in Game 3, defenseman Matt Taormina could draw in as a 7th defenseman with Brown coming out and going with 11 forwards. The fourth line could remain intact (or Blunden could be replaced with Condra to add a penalty killing forward or Marchessault to add some offense) and the lleft wing spot on the third line could be double shifted with Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, and Brian Boyle. Additionally, centers Tyler Johnson, Valtteri Filppula, and Vladislav Namestnikov could double shift in the middle of the third line with Paquette moving to the left wing.
Replacing J.T. Brown will be tough and this team will miss the energy that he brings to the ice each and every night. However, Jon Cooper and the rest of the coaching staff have plenty of options to go with to fill the hole and do what it takes to come back from Detroit victorious, or at least up three games to one.