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Posted On Wednesday, 04.24.2013 / 1:31 PM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs get back to work against Lightning

TAMPA -- A rested and relaxed group of Toronto Maple Leafs, fresh from clinching their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2004, visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

After nailing down the postseason spot Saturday night in Ottawa, the Maple Leafs had a chance to soak in what they had accomplished with three off days in Tampa.

"We've had a little bit of rest," Toronto defenseman John-Michael Liles said. "Sunday some of the guys played golf and some went out on a boat. Nothing too crazy, just trying to relax. It's nice to have the playoffs in your back pocket, but I think the main focus here is to move up in the standings and finish out the season strong. All year we've just been focusing on the next game and that's what we will continue to do, even with the playoffs clinched. It was nice to have these few days to kind of rest and get some sun, but now it's back to work."

Posted On Sunday, 04.21.2013 / 11:26 AM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Lindback returning to Lightning lineup

TAMPA -- Two teams looking to finish disappointing seasons in a bit of a positive way will meet Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Carolina Hurricanes.

For the Hurricanes, after dropping a 5-3 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, the morning was time off to rest. For the Lightning, the morning skate was optional and only a handful of players were on the ice.

Anders Lindback, one half of the Lightning's goalie tandem of the future, along with Ben Bishop, will get the start in net Sunday, his first game back after missing 13 with an ankle injury.

The start also will mark Lindback's first game for new Lightning coach Jon Cooper, but Cooper played down the importance of that.

Posted On Thursday, 04.11.2013 / 1:02 PM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Cooper using rest of season to see what he's got

TAMPA -- Benoit Pouliot leads all Tampa Bay Lightning forwards with a plus-9 rating and has recorded three points (one goal and two assists) in the past three games he has played. Tom Pyatt ranks first among Lightning forwards with 33 blocked shots.

Both skaters, however, will be off the ice, scratched for the second consecutive game, when Tampa Bay faces the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Significant? Not to Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

"I wouldn't read too much into it about the guys that are scratched," Cooper said. "We're just caught between that, we're trying to win, we're trying to win, we're trying to win, but we are also trying to see what we have. What guys can handle this? What guys can play next year? It's tough to do; it's tough to balance."

Posted On Tuesday, 04.09.2013 / 1:28 PM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Bishop, Conacher squaring off one week after trade

TAMPA -- Two former teammates will be on opposite benches Tuesday when the Ottawa Senators visit Tampa Bay Times Forum to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Goaltender Ben Bishop, one of the principals in the April 3 trade in which the Lightning sent forward Cory Conacher to the Senators, will face his former team as he makes his fourth consecutive start. For Bishop, who is 1-2-0 with Tampa Bay, the start just adds to what has been a whirlwind week.

"I've been in six cities and two countries in four games, so it's been hectic," Bishop said. "But if you can't get excited for games like this, you've got a problem. The last week has been a lot of emotions, a lot of excitement and a lot of adrenaline."

Posted On Tuesday, 04.02.2013 / 11:50 AM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Lecavalier joins Lightning for morning skate

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier, out the past eight games with a lower-body injury, was on the ice for the Lightning's morning skate prior to Tampa Bay hosting the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Lecavalier wore a red jersey, symbolizing he was cleared for contact, and took part in all the team drills.

"I was sitting there about to address the team and then I see the red jersey and there's Vinny," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It was pretty exciting to see him there. Hopefully he is feeling well. He's not going [Tuesday] but there is hope for Thursday."

Posted On Friday, 03.29.2013 / 12:47 PM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Cooper 'jacked' for NHL coaching debut

TAMPA -- New Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper may have looked calm as he prepared to coach his first game in the NHL, but looks can be deceiving.

"How am I looking right now? Am I looking OK?" Cooper asked the media after the morning skate. "OK, so take this and do the opposite and that's what is going on in here. I'm jacked. This is really, really exciting. I've got a plan. I've done it my way, and here I stand today. I wouldn't say that I'm really nervous, although five minutes before the game I'm sure I will be. There is a wave of emotions. I wish everyone could feel what I'm feeling right now. It's pretty cool."

Cooper will debut behind the bench Friday night when the Lightning play the New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Posted On Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 1:12 PM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sabres, Lightning

TAMPA -- When the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday at Tampa Bay Times Forum, the scene behind both benches will be a lot different than the one at the beginning of the season.

Leading the Sabres will be interim coach Ron Rolston, having taken over the position Feb. 20 from longtime coach Lindy Ruff.

The Lightning will be led by assistant coach Daniel Lacroix and player development coach Steve Thomas, who will lead the team until new coach Jon Copper takes over Wednesday.

Here are what the lineups will likely be for both teams:

Posted On Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 12:59 PM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Yzerman only wanted Cooper for new Lightning coach

TAMPA -- According to Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, it was a 3-2 Lightning victory at the Florida Panthers on March 12 that set his thought process in motion that a coaching change was needed.

"After that win, the atmosphere around the team was down," Yzerman said Tuesday, prior to the Lightning's game Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres. "We came back and played three more games and won two out of the three. Going on the road to Toronto, I had a sense that the atmosphere had changed, and watching the team play, the emotion, and trying to read the situation -- after watching the scenario play out over the last couple of weeks, the decision was made over a few days and just culminated with watching the game in Ottawa [a 5-3 Lightning loss which saw the team fall behind 4-0 in the opening period] I felt it was best for the team and I felt it was best for Guy Boucher at that point."

The Lightning announced Sunday that Boucher had been relieved of his duties, and a day later named Jon Cooper, the coach of the Lightning's American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, his replacement.

Cooper, the eighth full-time coach in team history, will make his debut Friday when the Lightning host the New Jersey Devils. Assistant coach Daniel Lacroix and player development coach Steve Thomas will share the coaching duties Tuesday.

Posted On Monday, 03.18.2013 / 12:34 PM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Flyers, Lightning

TAMPA -- The Philadelphia Flyers will look to go into a six-day break on a high note when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Both teams should be desperate for points; the Flyers are enter 11th in the Eastern Conference, four points out of a playoff spot. The Lightning are two points behind Philadelphia in 12th.

Also Monday, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen will become the 282nd skater to play in 1,000 NHL games, the sixth player born in Finland to reach that mark -- and the first ever to do it on his birthday. Timonen turned 38 on Monday.

Here is what the lineups likely will be when the Flyers and Lightning take the ice Monday:

Posted On Saturday, 03.16.2013 / 12:26 PM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Lightning face Hurricanes with Hall on other side

TAMPA -- When Vincent Lecavalier went on injured reserve Thursday with a lower-body injury, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher said he would look to forward Adam Hall to step up and take more faceoffs.

That night against the New York Islanders, Hall skated 9:15 and won four of six faceoff opportunities.

Friday, the Lightning put Hall on waivers, and he was claimed Saturday by the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay's opponent Saturday night.

"You have to ask Steve [Yzerman, Lightning general manager] about that," Boucher said. "I'm not the one making moves; I coach the guys that are here. I know we are going in a certain direction and Adam has been great for us. He has a terrific attitude, he's a great faceoff guy, he is a guy that has given us honest work every single day. It's sad to see those guys having to deal with that. But at the same time there is a bigger plan and Steve's in charge of directing that bigger plan, so I won't comment on the guys who are leaving; for me it's important to focus on the guys that will stay here.”

Yzerman was not immediately available for comment.

The Lightning did get one piece of encouraging news with Tom Pyatt, injured March 12 against the Florida Panthers, set to return against the Hurricanes.

"We miss a lot when Tom Pyatt is not in the lineup," Boucher said. "He's relentless, he's fast, penalty kill, first on the puck, first backchecker, great in his defensive zone. He's one of those guys that brings it all, so he's part of the relentless culture that we want.”

Carolina had the morning off after practicing Friday.

Here are how the lineups likely will look Saturday night:

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Quote of the Day

Life's about opportunity and how you respond to that opportunity, and obviously he must have some swagger about him, some confidence about him, because he was solid. He made some good saves. He was 6-foot-3 on every shot, which is a good thing for a goalie. He played well. We got a win.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on rookie goaltender Garret Sparks, who made 24 saves in his first NHL start, a 3-0 win vs. Oilers
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