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Drouin dropped to fourth line, ‘has to learn to play away from the puck’

Jonathan Drouin

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)

Mark Humphrey

After getting a hefty workload in his first four NHL games, Tampa’s Jonathan Drouin played just 11:50 in Tuesday’s 7-3 win over Arizona and was bumped to the fourth line -- the same line he’ll play on tonight when the Bolts host the Flyers.

But according to head coach Jon Cooper, the demotion and minutes reduction isn’t a big deal.

“I don’t think from the outset we were there saying, ‘Jo Drouin will be a 20-minute guy out of the gate,’” Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “Jo is an ultra-talent, he’s a really good player, but he has to learn to play away from the puck just like everybody else has to. You play him on a different line it takes a little bit of pressure off him, and just guiding him into where he’s hopefully going to end up.”

Drouin, 19, has gone pointless in his last two games, with a minus-2 rating. But his role reduction isn’t all about him -- it probably has plenty to do with the guys around him.

Tampa Bay has a number of forwards earning their minutes. Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are all producing as you’d expect, but so too are sophomore Nikita Kucherov (scored his first career hat trick against the Coyotes, has nine points in 10 games), fellow rookies and fourth-liners Vladimir Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette, and free agent pickup Brian Boyle (five points through 10 games).

The Lightning have also stated on numerous occasions that they’re not going to rush Drouin. They didn’t fast-track him to the NHL last year, sending him back for seasoning in junior, and they aren’t going to force feed him minutes.

“I don’t know too many people who jump into the league at 19 (years old) and are playing 22 minutes a night,” Cooper explained. “It just doesn’t really happen.”