Jason Brough

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin waits for play to resume in the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Suspension over: Drouin will report to AHL Syracuse


The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they’ve lifted the suspension of forward Jonathan Drouin and that he’ll report to AHL Syracuse tomorrow morning for practice.

The announcement comes one week after the NHL trade deadline. Drouin had been hoping to be dealt to a new team, but after the deadline came and went, Lighting GM Steve Yzerman said that the door was open for Drouin to play for the organization again.

Yzerman later clarified that, if Drouin were to return this season, it would be in the AHL, not the NHL.

“If he wants to play hockey his options are to go to Syracuse,” Yzerman told 620 WDAE radio on Tuesday. “I frankly don’t expect him to want to come back. I don’t know that I’d describe it as an open invitation but, again, if he wants to play, the Syracuse Crunch are playing. That’s the only place he can play right now.”

Drouin’s return to the Crunch has upside for both parties, even if the “ship has sailed” on him ever playing for the Lightning again.

For Drouin, it’s an opportunity to play pro hockey again, as well as showcase his skills for a potential suitor. For the Lightning, assuming he stays healthy and plays reasonably well, it has the potential to help them maximize their return in an offseason trade.

Drouin turns 21 on March 28. He had two goals and one assist in seven games for the Crunch before he was suspended for failing to report to a game in January.


Sutter has belief that Scuderi ‘can still play’

Newly acquired Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi waves as the fans applaud him to welcome him back to Los Angeles, during the first period of the Kings' NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

When the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2014, they had four defensemen that coach Darryl Sutter felt comfortable sending over the boards for at least 20 minutes a game.

Two of them — Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin — are still with the club.

But with Willie Mitchell in Florida now and Slava Voynov in the KHL, it will be interesting to see how Sutter doles out the ice time in the playoffs.

Alec Martinez, of course, has since graduated to receiving top-four minutes. He’s earned Sutter’s trust, based on the career-high 21:15 he’s averaged this season.

So, that’s three guys — Doughty, Muzzin, and Martinez.

After that?

Well, the coach is still getting a read on trade-deadline acquisition Rob Scuderi, the 37-year-old who played top-four minutes during the Kings’ first Stanley Cup run in 2012.

Scuderi logged 15:10 in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Anaheim.

“I mean, you want guys who are consistent,” Sutter told LA Kings Insider. “That’s what we want from Scuds. Scuds is clearly a guy that the less you notice him, the better he is, clearly. That hasn’t changed. He can still play. There were some talking about that he couldn’t play the minutes, or he couldn’t play, well, he played every game last year, he played 19 minutes and he was on a good hockey team and a plus player, and he played every playoff game.”

The counterpoint is that Scuderi has already been traded twice this year, first by Pittsburgh, then by Chicago. At some point in every athlete’s career, getting older becomes got too old.

The hope in bringing Scuderi back is that the Kings’ system will be a better match for his “smart, dependable” style, just like the hope for the Blackhawks is that Christian Ehrhoff will be a better fit for their system. Both Los Angeles and Chicago will enter the playoffs with question marks beyond their first three d-men.

Sutter’s other options beyond his Big Three are Brayden McNabb, Luke Schenn, and Jamie McBain. While Matt Greene skated the other day, there’s no timetable for his return following shoulder surgery.

Kovalchuk makes surprise return to KHL playoffs

FILE - In this May 13, 2013 file photo, Russia's Ilya Kovalchuk celebrates his goal during the 2013 Ice Hockey World Championships match against Austria in Helsinki. Kovalchuk left the New Jersey Devils and retired from the NHL, leaving $77 million on the table last summer to go back home and play in Russia. In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, Kovalchuk said he has no regrets and looks forward to helping the host country win gold next month at the Sochi Games.  (AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Jussi Nukari)  FINLAND OUT

Ilya Kovalchuk is back in SKA Saint Petersburg’s lineup today, and is reportedly “trying very hard” against Dynamo Moscow.

The 32-year-old former NHL star was benched for all but the opening game of SKA’s first-round series defeat of Lokomotiv. He missed four games total.

Though Kovalchuk has one year remaining on his contract with SKA, there has been speculation through all this that he may attempt to return to North America for next season.

Of course, even if he wanted to, returning to the NHL for next season may not be possible, so a reconciliation with SKA may be his best bet.

Related: Kovalchuk reportedly stripped of captaincy

Ehlers out indefinitely with eye injury


There’s concern in Winnipeg, where 20-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers is out indefinitely with an eye injury.

“Ehlers took a puck on the visor and the visor broke, which caused an injury,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said today, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “He has some blood in the eye chamber. We don’t know the extent of it. We’ll know in the next 24 hours once he sees specialists and he’s tested.”

Ehlers, the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft, suffered the injury last night in overtime against the Islanders.

“We have no expectation of anything long-term,” Maurice said. “But the longer we think it takes to dissipate, that’s going to extend that injury because he won’t get on a bike or go for a brisk walk until it’s completely gone.”

Maurice said a further update could come tomorrow.

Ehlers, a rookie, has 13 goals and 18 assists in 63 games for the Jets this season.

Bylsma admits Reinhart may fit best on the wing

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 19: Sam Reinhart #23 of the Buffalo Sabres skates with the puck during the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the First Niagara Center on December 19, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)

All the goals Sam Reinhart has been scoring as a winger are making the Buffalo Sabres wonder if Reinhart should, you know… be a winger.

“It does maybe change a little bit with the success that he’s had at wing and the comfort that he has in kind of seamlessly starting there and playing there this year,” head coach Dan Bylsma told the Buffalo News.

“I still think his intelligence of how he plays the game lends itself to being a puck distributor in the middle of the ice, but when you look at a top-six group of forwards or you’re putting lines together, with the success he’s had at wing you kind of feel like being on the wing in a top-six is something maybe he’s been better at for us.”

Reinhart, 20, was drafted second overall in 2014 — as a center. But with Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly in the mix now, the best way to get the most out of Reinhart may be as a top-six winger.

Don’t forget the Sabres also have 22-year-old Zemgus Girgensons; it’s possible he could be the third-line center of the future.

For now, the Sabres are keeping their options open. O’Reilly is expected to be out a bit longer with an injury, so Bylsma wants Reinhart to “play a few more games at center” before the season is over.

Too many talented, young centers.

It’s not the worst problem to have.