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Transcript: Jon Cooper says “There’s no moral victories in not making the playoffs”

Quick Note: For the sake of clarity and fluency, I have omitted extraneous uses of the phrases, “and,” “so,” “but,” “I don’t know”, “you know,” and “I mean.”

Injury Updates

Question: Encouraging to see a couple of guys back on the ice, especially Vladdy [Vladislav Namestnikov] looks like he’s good to go?

Jon Cooper: Yeah, so hopefully we’ve got numbers to choose from come tomorrow. It sounds like the guys are pretty good.

Question: Are you surprised to see Ceddy [Cedric Paquette] come back on the ice? That  [injury] looked pretty bad.

Cooper: I don’t know. Tough kid. With those injuries you never know. I remember when [Anton] Stralman’s [broken fibula last year] happened, it was much more severe than Ceddy’s, but Ceddy’s was still a pretty ugly injury.

[Today’s practice] was the first time he’s jumped on the ice. He’s a little bit of time away, but it’s crunch time now. We’ve got to try and get these guys back as fast as we can.

Question: Is that a play on words – “crunch time”? [referring to the many many call-ups from the Lightning’s AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch this year]

Cooper: That’s actually pretty good. [smiles]

Question: How about Stammer [Steven Stamkos]? I know there’s still no timetable on him. Do you see more and more progression out of him?

Cooper: I do. I think part of it too is, not only is it the comfort level with his injury, but now you’ve got to get back in – he’s in shape, but you can’t replicate being out there in practice and grinding through, getting bumped and hit. I think that’s going to take a little time. Every day, he comes off [the ice] and there’s no setbacks so that’s a really good sign.

Syracuse Crunch

Question: Speaking of the [Syracuse] Crunch – I know you wouldn’t have envisioned having this many guys in the lineup at this point in the season, but the fact that they’re really helping the team playing as well as they have, is that kind of surprising with this many young guys?

Cooper: I don’t know. I can’t sit here and say it’s surprising because they’re having a pretty good year down there. You’d hope that with the success they’re having down there [in the AHL] that some of it would translate to up here [in the NHL] and it has.

Probably the encouraging thing is that they’re actually still continuing to win some games down there with all the guys we’ve taken away from them. It’s a tribute to what they’re doing down there.

I think when you’ve got some of these players that have nibbled a little bit of the NHL, then they go back. You get a little bit better player when you bring them up a second time. They’re doing all they can to help us win.

Ultimately, we have to win now. We dropped our last two. Tomorrow’s game [against the Arizona Coyotes] is pivotal for us.

Bolts Family Carnival

Question: Did yesterday’s [Bolts Family] Carnival accomplish what you hoped in terms of getting away from the game for a day and getting your mind off of it?

Cooper: I just thought it was really enjoyable. To come in – I think I said this yesterday to Caley [Chelios], it’s an event where… We’re always surrounded by our fans, but we never really get to interact with them. This is the time to get to interact with them.

Just to see the look on a little kid’s face, the excitement, the awe when they see some of these players. They’re their idols. I thought it was just great to be around. All the fans were just giving their encouragement. They have so much belief in what we’re going to do and making the playoffs. It was enjoyable for me.

Playoff Push

Question: Maybe it speaks to just how nutty this season has been, but did you think – before when we were talking about it – that a crunch game against Arizona would be pivotal?

Cooper: [laughs] It’s funny how that works. I look at years past when we had a little bit of a cushion trying to make the playoffs, you were still sweating it out, it was just a little different way. Years past, you could drop this game that’s coming up tomorrow and be a little aggravated, but understand that it’s okay. You’re well enough ahead here to make the playoffs.

Well, we don’t have that. Maybe there’s a little fear factor in the players here setting in; maybe not making the playoffs setting in. Maybe that could be a little bit of an added incentive for us to win tomorrow night.

Even talking to the guys before practice today, just the way they practiced and how hard they worked, there’s a lot of fight left in the dog. We’re looking forward to tomorrow night.

Question: Is that the saving grace? If you came up short [and didn’t make the playoffs], is there a measure of pride in the way this team – the desperate hockey they’ve played through the injuries?

Cooper: I don’t know. I don’t think there’s any moral victories in not making the playoffs. If we don’t make it, we don’t make it. We can pat ourselves on the back and say we tried.

Question: Is that because of expectations before this season?

Cooper: I don’t know. Do expectations – just because you’re not expected to make the playoffs, does that make it okay if you don’t make it? I just think here, how far we’ve been – we just expect to be there.

Right now we’re on the outside looking in. Regardless of how we’ve gotten here. We can sit here and people say, “Well it’s injuries or this.”

We’re still right there. We beat some pretty good teams with the lineup we have. We need to continue to do so. Tomorrow night’s where we gotta start.

Question: Will you be tuning in to the Boston-Toronto game tonight?

Cooper: No, because my kids have a big floor hockey game tonight. Matching up against each other, so I’ve got to go watch that one. [laughs]

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