Is Tyler Johnson injured? Speculation grows

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The cliche is probably somewhat true: it’s plausible that everyone’s a little banged up by this time of year.

Still, there’s a difference between “regular trips to the ice bath” and having injury issues limiting your effectiveness, and the buzz is building about rising Tampa Bay Lightning star Tyler Johnson.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie brought up some credible concerns, wondering if Jonathan Drouin’s possible Stanley Cup Final debut may coincide with a less-than-healthy No. 9.

Even with a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1, the Lightning have enjoyed quite a bit of success with an extra defenseman in their mix (going with 11 forwards and seven blueliners). McKenzie wonders if this situation will bump that back to the traditional setup of 12 forwards and six defensemen.

Johnson says no, stats say maybe

Good luck getting any transparent injury updates this far into the playoffs – teams aren’t even divulging¬†which half of a player’s torso¬†is in jeopardy at this point – but the 24-year-old is denying that he’s hurt. For whatever that’s worth.

The speculation is fueled by a poor game by the standards of Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. They didn’t perform well whether you look at deeper possession stats or merely note that the trio failed to generate a point and only combined for two shots on goal. (Kucherov and Johnson finished Game 1 with -1 ratings, too.)

Johnson told the Tampa Bay Times that he isn’t injured, but admits that “The Triplets” need to up their collective game.

“Our line right now, we’re playing just average,” Johnson said. “We’re not doing as well as we should, and we know that. It’s time for us to step up.”

Johnson dismissed the injury scuttlebutt while Lightning head coach Jon Cooper doesn’t seem too concerned about this mini-slump for “The Triplets.” That concern may build if Game 2 doesn’t go Tampa Bay’s way, though.