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Posted On Friday, 04.18.2014 / 1:41 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Lightning-Canadiens series blog

Lightning stress poise under pressure

TAMPA -- Immediately after a 5-4 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference First Round series, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he thought his team played well.

On reflection, and after viewing the film, he changed his mind.

"I just think we could have had a little bit better poise under pressure in some instances," Cooper said. "I don't think our defense was moving it fast enough and I think our forwards were not helping out our defense. Our forwards have to find a way to get back a little harder and fight their way back so we can start going up ice. We played right into Montreal's game plan."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.16.2014 / 1:24 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Lightning-Canadiens series blog

Nerves not an issue as Cooper gets Lightning ready

TAMPA -- Thursday night marks the Stanley Cup Playoff coaching debut for Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Those expecting nerves to be eating away at the young coach as Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens approaches Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, RDS) should think again.

"When you're really in this, you don't get to see what everyone else sees," Cooper said. "I think it's more calming to be in the fire than it is to be actually watching the fire. I'm going to go home, eat the same thing, and squeeze in a little nap. I'm not going to change anything, and then I'll come back here and try to beat a team we have played four times this year."

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Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 7:19 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Gudlevskis to make NHL debut with Lightning

TAMPA -- Kristers Gudlevskis, who played for Latvia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, will make his NHL debut for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Gudlevskis, 21, was the Lightning's fifth-round pick (No. 124) in the 2013 NHL Draft. He began the season with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL before being promoted to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League. He had an 18-11-4 record with a 2.68 goals-against average and a save percentage of .901 with Syracuse.

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Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 1:30 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blue Jackets' Horton out six weeks after surgery

TAMPA -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton had abdominal surgery Friday morning and is expected to miss six weeks.

Horton missed four games with the injury before returning to the lineup Tuesday in a 4-3 win against the Phoenix Coyotes. However, he skated only eight shifts before leaving the game.

Horton, who missed the first half of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, appeared in 36 games with five goals and 19 points.

"It's a blow," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "The reason why it's a blow is the potential out on the ice. A goal scorer, big and strong. But the other thing is that he's played in big games and big moments. That's why an organization like this goes out to get a guy like him. He can offer it being around the guys but it's that in the room, in between periods and on the bench during a game, that he could have had a great effect."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 1:51 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Flyers look to solve Lightning at Tampa Bay

TAMPA -- Even though the teams have secured a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, don't expect the Tampa Bay Lightning or Philadelphia Flyers to slack off Thursday.

They have a lot to play for, and they know it.

"I like it," Flyers coach Craig Berube said about meaningful games at this point. "We know there is something on the line, and we talked about it yesterday and again today. Home-ice advantage is important."

The Lightning have been a tough team for the Flyers, and Tampa Bay Times Forum has been a tough building for them. They are 0-2-0 against Tampa Bay this season and have gone 0-6-1 here since the 2010-11 season, but Berube's plan to reverse that trend is a simple one.

"Play better," he said. "We have to play a good game because they are a good team. We need a checking mindset against this team."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.08.2014 / 1:46 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Bolland likely scratch as Maple Leafs face must-win

TAMPA -- The Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday facing possible elimination from the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If the Maple Leafs lose to the Lightning and the Columbus Blue Jackets defeat the Phoenix Coyotes, the season ends for Toronto.

Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle is looking for his team to bounce back from a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.

"Off our morning skate I feel good about it," Carlyle said. "We had some life. We have met and talked about our situation and where we are at. More than anything it's a response. We are looking for a response from our performance the other night. That's what we spoke to them about; that's what we ask of them, because we were not happy about the other night, and the only way we are going to be judged is if we come out and compete to the level we are capable of."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 1:00 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Stars could regain Cole's services against Lightning

TAMPA -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said forward Erik Cole may be back in the lineup Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"We're going to give him a game-time decision," Ruff said. "He said this morning that he's feeling pretty good, so if it looks like he can go we'll play him tonight."

Cole has missed seven games with an upper-body injury, and his return would be welcome considering Stars forward Ray Whitney, who sustained a lower-body injury in the game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday will be out Saturday.

"There were times when [Cole] really dominated play," Ruff said. "He has really skated well for us and physically, he's a tough guy to handle down low. It gives us back a guy that has been an important piece for us. There are times when he's been out there struggling with injuries and playing, but when he's been feeling well and going well, he's been a guy that has really pushed the other team back and gotten behind the other defense. Physically, he's a tough guy to handle."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.03.2014 / 2:35 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning keeping foot on gas despite clinching berth

TAMPA -- In the closing moments of the Tampa Bay Lightning's win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, defenseman Michael Kostka sustained a concussion from a hit to the head he took from defenseman Douglas Murray.

Kostka's return date to the lineup is unknown. Murray was suspended three games by the NHL on Thursday.

"We're taking it day-to-day to see how I feel," Kostka said. "Surprisingly, I don't feel as bad as I thought I would. It's never happened to me before, so I don't really have a baseline as to how I would feel after something like that.

"Murray texted me right after the game and apologized. Classy move. I don't think it was malicious, that he was trying to do that. Needless to say it was still a bad hit."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.27.2014 / 7:21 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Okposo a late scratch for Islanders

TAMPA -- Forward Kyle Okposo, the New York Islanders' leading scorer, was a late scratch Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a lower-body injury.

Okposo appeared to be slowed by the injury during the Islanders' 5-4 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. However, coach Jack Capuano said after the morning skate that he would dress the same 12 forwards, including Okposo, that played against Carolina.

The 25-year-old leads the Islanders with 27 goals and 69 points. Both totals are career highs.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.27.2014 / 1:00 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning's Cooper sees Callahan as important piece

TAMPA -- It was an optional morning skate for both teams prior to the Tampa Bay Lightning meeting the New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday, and Lightning coach Jon Cooper was in a reflective mood as he spoke about how his first full season at the helm has changed him.

There have been exceptional ups and downs that Cooper has dealt with, the loss of forward Steven Stamkos to injury for 45 games and the deadline trade of forward Martin St. Louis among others. But the Lightning have maintained an even keel throughout.

"I'm the same person with the same beliefs," Cooper said. "I'm just more experienced now. I guess that's the difference. I'm still the same coach and I have the same feel. I don't know if I would change one thing I've done in the past -- except for maybe the last 20 shootout shooters (the Lightning have gone 0-for-15 in the shootout of late). It's just the experience: life experience and NHL experience. That's what I've really gained about this whole thing."

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Posted On Monday, 03.24.2014 / 1:05 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Senators' Ryan out; Anderson returns as backup

TAMPA -- The Ottawa Senators limp into their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday mired in a six-game winless skid (0-4-2). They got some good news and bad news on the injury front Monday.

Goalie Craig Anderson returns after missing five games due to an upper-body injury. Although he won't start Monday, Anderson will serve as the backup to Robin Lehner.

However, the Senators will be without forward Bobby Ryan. The team leader in goals with 23, Ryan injured himself when he went hard into the boards during a 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

"Ryan will not be available [Monday or Tuesday, at the Florida Panthers]," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "He has re-aggravated something and right now we are going to keep him out for two games and evaluate him when we get home and make any more determinations after that."

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Posted On Monday, 03.17.2014 / 1:03 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning focused on present against Canucks

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning finish a six-game homestand Monday when they host the Vancouver Canucks.

The Lightning have gathered six of a possible 10 points and won their past two games after starting the stretch with a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

"We've had a pretty good homestand and we can turn a pretty good homestand into a great homestand with a win [Monday]," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "That's what this is."

The game Monday will feature a reunion of the 2003-04 Lightning team that won the Stanley Cup, and 14 members of that team have returned. Also on hand is that team's coach, John Tortorella, with his new team, the Vancouver Canucks. All that commotion has not gone unnoticed by the current Lightning coach.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.15.2014 / 12:11 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning expect tight defense from visiting Devils

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning continue their six-game homestand Saturday when they host the New Jersey Devils.

Although New Jersey is coming off a 5-3 loss Friday against the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper doesn't have any doubts about what kind of team he'll be facing.

"New Jersey does such a good job of playing defense and keeping the puck out of the net. It's tough to break through and score against these guys," Cooper said. "I look at the score last night and they gave up five goals and it's like an eye-opener, and then I think, 'Why couldn't they have given up five against us?' That doesn't happen that often and they have world-class goaltending in there and they have a system in place and they know how to play."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.13.2014 / 1:32 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

In need of win, Lightning expect test from Panthers

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will be looking to snap their five-game losing streak when they meet the Florida Panthers on Thursday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Lightning have picked up four points since the NHL stopped for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and one thing is certain for Tampa Bay.

"We're running out of games," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Calling the game against the Panthers "a pivotal one," Cooper said he doesn't expect it to be easy.

"Florida, realistically, won't make the [Stanley Cup Playoffs], but look at their starting lineup tonight compared to the team we play on Oct. 27 (a 4-3 shootout win). I think there are eight different forwards playing," Cooper said. "But the guys that are playing are fighting for contracts and for jobs, not only for this year but for next year. These guys will be flying; they are hungry hockey players. As hungry as we are, wanting to stay in our playoff spot, these guys are hungry because they want to make sure they are on the Florida Panthers next year. The battle level will be intense."

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Posted On Monday, 03.10.2014 / 1:54 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Coyotes' Smith returns to face Lightning

TAMPA -- When the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday, a familiar goaltender will be on the ice, but at the opposite end from what once was his accustomed spot.

Mike Smith, who played for the Lightning from 2007-11, makes his return to Tampa Bay Times Forum, and in the time since he left much has changed for the 31-year-old goalie.

When Smith was obtained in a trade with the Dallas Stars, hopes were high that Tampa Bay had settled its goaltending picture for the foreseeable future.

It didn't work that way. Smith occasionally flashed signs of brilliance but was inconsistent and finished his time in Tampa Bay with a demotion to the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League.

"It was a tough situation, being sent to the minors," Smith said. "I never thought I'd play in the NHL again so I was just making the best of the situation. Obviously I got a second chance and I was very fortunate."

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Posted On Saturday, 03.08.2014 / 12:35 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning still adjusting following St. Louis trade

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning continue a six-game homestand hosting the Boston Bruins Saturday. In preparation, each team held an optional morning skate.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper skipped the morning media session, sending associate coach Rick Bowness in his place.

The Lightning are riding a three-game losing streak and slipping in the Stanley Cup Playoff race. But despite the distractions surrounding the recent trade of captain Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers, Bowness characterized the team as "pumped up about the challenge to play the Bruins."

"We all know what has happened lately but the atmosphere around the players is good," Bowness said. "We need some wins to take it to another level. We have to keep working and keep pushing until we get this thing turned around."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.06.2014 / 2:24 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning's Callahan not worried replacing St. Louis

TAMPA -- Prior to the Tampa Bay Lightning's morning skate Thursday, coach Jon Cooper assembled the team and addressed the elephant in the room.

"We talked about Martin St. Louis," Cooper said. "I think it was only fair to acknowledge that one of the greatest players in this franchise history, if not the greatest, had been moved. But it was a 100-percent positive conversation. We explained to the players what happened and introduced Ryan Callahan, our new player."

And with that out of the way, there is no looking back for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"There has been something hanging over our team for quite some time," Cooper said. "I think, whether this was right or wrong or will help or hurt, we don't know the answer to that question today, but it has brought kind of a new life to our team. We don't know which way that will go at this point, but I think our focus now is the last 20 games and we have to win to make the playoffs."

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Posted On Saturday, 02.08.2014 / 1:15 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Namestnikov to make NHL debut for Lightning

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning had an optional skate Saturday morning with 10 players participating. But don't think that coach Jon Cooper's casual attitude means he is taking the Detroit Red Wings lightly.

"This is paramount for us, to get points before we go into the break," Cooper said. "It's a division opponent, it's someone we are battling for a playoff spot. I'm not classifying this as a Game 7; we'll still be in the playoff hunt when we return from the break. But stopping the bleeding now would be really nice."

And there has been some bleeding, as the Lightning are on a 1-4-0 run and hold a slim one-point edge over the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division. Saturday's opponent, the Red Wings, sits five points back.

"In regard to the break, there are a lot of teams in this League probably wishing this break never came, and there are a few teams in this League that are wishing it started a week ago," Cooper said. "And we are probably one of those teams."

With Valtteri Filppula sidelined with an ankle injury that is expected to sideline him at least three weeks and Ben Bishop day-to-day with an upper-body injury, the Lightning recalled forward Vladislav Namestnikov and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis from the American Hockey League. Namestnikov will make his NHL debut Saturday.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.06.2014 / 1:54 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning can hear teams creeping up behind them

TAMPA -- If the Tampa Bay Lightning hear footsteps, it's simply because teams are sneaking up on them in the standings.

The Lightning return home to the Tampa Bay Times Forum after a four-game road trip when they were 1-3-0. Their opponents in their final two games heading into the Olympic break, the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, are seeking to close the gap and overtake them in the standings.

First it's the streaking Maple Leafs, who are on a 9-2-1 run to climb to within three points of the Lightning in the Atlantic Division.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.25.2014 / 12:28 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Aittokallio to make season debut in goal for Avalanche

TAMPA -- On the heels of a win Friday against the Florida Panthers, the Colorado Avalanche had an optional skate before meeting the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

One player who definitely wanted to get some rest was Sami Aittokallio. He will be making his first start of the season in goal against the Lightning.

Aittokallio was called up from the American Hockey League's Lake Erie Monsters on Friday as insurance since Jean-Sebastien Giguere remains day-to-day with back spasms.

The game on Saturday will mark Aittokallio's second NHL start. He appeared against the L.A. Kings on April 11, 2013 and stopped 23 of 25 shots before leaving in the third period with leg cramps.

"We're not going to change our plan," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "Giguere was supposed to play for us tonight but we have three games in four nights and we just feel we want to give Varlamov a rest. We have a lot of confidence in Aittokallio. He had a really good training camp for us and I think it would be a good time for him to have his first start for us this year. He played really well in L.A. last year. It will be a good challenge for him.”


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Posted On Thursday, 01.23.2014 / 1:31 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Hedman back for Lightning after missing one game

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman will be back in the lineup Thursday as the Lightning host the Ottawa Senators at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Hedman missed one game when he was hit in the leg with a puck during the Lightning's game Jan. 18 against the San Jose Sharks. That was one game too many for Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

"You miss a 24-minute [of ice time per game] defenseman that plays the whole 200 feet," Cooper said. "You take arguably the best defenseman off any team and it will leave a hole. When he is on the ice it is harder for teams to get into our zone. Just the way he can cut the ice down on teams and not give them space just because of his speed, and then we usually have the puck a lot more when he is on the ice, just in the sense that he retrieves it quicker and he's got that ability to jump into plays.

"He plays all situations for us, power plays and penalty kill, so it's tough when you miss guys like that."

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Posted On Saturday, 01.18.2014 / 11:17 AM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Niemi expected back in crease against Lightning

TAMPA -- In preparation for an afternoon puck-drop, the San Jose Sharks and the Tampa Bay Lightningopted against morning skates Saturday.

Antti Niemi is expected to start in goal for the Sharks after backup Alex Stalock shut out the Florida PanthersThursday.

Forward Logan Couture skated with San Jose on Friday, his first time on the ice since undergoing hand surgery Wednesday. He's expected to miss at least two more weeks.

The Lightning also had a key injured player on the ice this week as Steven Stamkos participated in a full team skate on Thursday, his first since breaking his right tibia more than two months ago. Thursday also saw Tampa Bay assign defenseman Andrej Sustr to the American Hockey League. The move was necessitated by the return of injured veteran defenseman Sami Salo, who played Thursday in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

Here are the projected lineups for the Sharks and Lightning:

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Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 1:51 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Martinek returning to Islanders lineup

TAMPA -- After missing 22 games with back spasms, veteran defenseman Radek Martinek will return to the New York Islanders lineup when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

His addition counters the loss of Travis Hamonic, who is out with an upper-body injury sustained during a game Jan. 12 at Dallas.

The Islanders will start Kevin Poulin in goal. His career-high five-game win streak ended Tuesday in Florida. Poulin became the first Islanders goalie since Rick DiPietro (Feb 12-21, 2008, six straight) to win five straight games.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 12:58 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Stamkos joins Lightning for full morning skate

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning had a pleasant surprise at their morning skate Thursday when Steven Stamkos hit the ice along with the rest of the team.

For Stamkos, recovering from a broken right tibia sustained Nov. 11, it marked the first time he participated in a full skate. He did not take part in line rushes or power-play drills, but did take part in a 2-on-1 drill and worked on faceoffs.

"It's obviously not a practice," Stamkos said, "but to be able to do some drills with the guys is definitely a positive."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper also saw it as a positive, but still sounded a note of caution.

"He's been pretty eager to get out there and I think his head is further along than his leg is," Cooper said. "I have no problem with that. I like his energy, his eagerness. It's just a sign that every day he is getting closer. That is a good thing. I'm just waiting for the day when [Lightning trainer] Tom Mulligan comes to me and says, 'By the way, number 91 is good to go.' It'll be like a mini-post Christmas."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.09.2014 / 12:58 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Quick pit stop at home for Lightning; Bishop to IR

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning make a brief one-game visit home to play the Washington Capitals on Thursday, but after four consecutive road games prior and three more to go after, being back in Tampa feels more like a visit than a homecoming.

"To be honest, this is game five of the road trip for us," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "This is no different than going into a road city. We jumped in here, the only difference is that we are not staying in a hotel. You come in, you play, you leave the next day and go to the next city. And we have three more cities. We've treated this like an eight-game road trip."

Tampa Bay will still be without their top goaltender, Ben Bishop, who is on injured reserve with a sprained right wrist sustained during the opening minutes of a Jan. 5 game against the Edmonton Oilers. He is eligible to return Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers, but there are no guarantees.

"I don't know," Cooper said. "The concern will end when he comes in and says, 'Coach, I'm ready to go.' He can't play until Tuesday; that would be the earliest he is eligible to play. I just hope at that time that he's ready to go. It's like the sprained ankle, sprained wrist, sprained anything; he may come off IR but he's still not ready to go."

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Posted On Sunday, 12.29.2013 / 1:24 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning ready for Rangers in second of back-to-back

TAMPA -- When the Tampa Bay Lightning were playing 65 minutes of uneven hockey Saturday, the New York Rangers were relaxing in their hotel. It took a shootout to decide matters in the Lightning's 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

This might appear give the Rangers a huge advantage heading into the game Sunday against the Lightning, but appearances can be deceiving.

The Lightning are 4-0-1 record in the second half of back-to-back games this season and Tampa Bay is 14-3-2 at home, going unbeaten in regulation in its past six games at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

"It might mean something or it might not," Rangers forward Brian Boyle said. "It depends on how we play. This League has a lot of travel and all, so players are used to it."

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Posted On Saturday, 12.28.2013 / 1:00 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning's St. Louis remodels game with Stamkos out

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning resume play after the holiday break sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division, five points behind the Boston Bruins and two points ahead of their opponent Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens.

Steven Stamkos has missed 20 games with a broken tibia and the Lightning have gone 11-6-3 while maintaining a spot near the top of the division since losing him Nov. 11. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper points to Martin St. Louis as the reason the team has sustained its momentum.

"Stamkos had been his linemate for four-and-a-half years and Marty had to reinvent himself," Cooper said. "All he has done is lead us like a champion the last 10 games. Somebody had to pick us up after Stamkos went down and that's what captains do. He picked us up and he has led us the way ever since.

"That's why he is who he is. There are only a few special guys who can do things like that. You look at where he had to come from and how late he got to the NHL; he has had to fight through everything on the way up. You look at all the challenges he has had in the past, this has got to be one of the biggest ones. To lead a young, inexperienced -- I think we are the second-least inexperienced team in the League -- and to take a bunch of kids and put us where we are now, it's a testament to what he has brought to us."

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Posted On Saturday, 12.21.2013 / 1:07 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning take pride in third-period performances

TAMPA -- The third period of a game has been like unwrapping a big Christmas present of late for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In their previous three contests, the Lightning have used the final period to propel themselves to three consecutive wins. They produced three unanswered goals to break a scoreless tie against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 15. Tampa Bay scored two goals in the final three minutes, including one with four seconds left in regulation before winning in a shootout two days later against the New York Islanders.

Two days later against the Nashville Predators, the Lightning proved they could take a lead into the third and still control the final 20 minutes in a 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators.

Success in the final period is no accident, Tampa Bay coach John Cooper said.

"We've talked about that," Cooper said. "Get the lead, extend the lead, protect the lead, kind of deal. You have to be able to do it during games. You've got to give yourself a chance to win the game when you get to the third, and we've been doing that."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.19.2013 / 1:43 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning get Hedman back, look to support Lindback

TAMPA -- In their previous trip to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, on Oct. 24, 2010, the Nashville Predatorsstarted a 6-foot-6 behemoth in the net and he responded by making 42 saves and leading them to a 4-3 win, their first in Tampa since their inaugural season in 1998-99.

Thursday these two teams meet again, at Tampa Bay Times Forum, and that same oversized netminder will be on the ice again, only this time he’ll be wearing a Lightning sweater.

Anders Lindback will make his 10th start of the season and first against his previous team. He’ll bring a 2-6-1 record into the game, but that hardly is indicative of how he has played. When Lindback has been between the pipes the Lightning are averaging 1.8 goals per game. Contrast that with the 3.04 goals of support that Tampa Bay is generating for its other goalie, Ben Bishop.

"We're scoring goals for one guy and not scoring for the other," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I look at Lindback and I think the guys are pressed to get him goals. We have to reverse our mindset a little."

Despite his current record, Nashville coach Barry Trotz knows from personal experience how good Lindback can be.

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Posted On Thursday, 12.12.2013 / 1:56 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Red Wings, Lightning have similar issues

TAMPA -- The game Thursday between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings looks like a matchup between two pretty even teams, even in the injury column.

The Red Wings have four skaters out with injury, including Henrik Zetterberg. The Lightning have six players hurt, including Steven Stamkos.

The Red Wings are coming off a shootout loss Tuesday against the Florida Panthers; the Lightning lost in a shootout Tuesday against the Washington Capitals.

And to top it off, Detroit enters the game one point ahead of Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division.

"Many people have said that we're playing teams that are healthy and we are banged-up and we can't sit here and have a pity party over it," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Everybody goes through it. But [Thursday] we're playing a team that is just as banged-up as we are. So there is no excuses about what is going to go on."


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Posted On Saturday, 12.07.2013 / 1:26 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning scramble to field healthy lineup

TAMPA -- With injuries wreaking havoc with their regular lineup, the Tampa Bay Lightning are dodging and weaving to put skaters on the ice against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Lightning lost defensemen Victor Hedman to a lower-body injury and Keith Aulie with a broken hand during a win against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. On the plus side, defensemen Radko Gudas and Eric Brewer, who have sat out five and two games respectively, appear ready to return.

"They should be good," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

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Posted On Thursday, 12.05.2013 / 1:01 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Cooper wants goal-starved Lightning to stick with it

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning open a two-game homestand Thursday when the Ottawa Senators visit Tampa Bay Times Forum, and if the visitors are bringing any gifts, the Lightning hope it is in the form of a few scoring opportunities.

Tampa Bay has been shut out in consecutive games and three times in five games. Excluding an empty-net goal by Tyler Johnson against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 27, the Lightning are scoreless in 135 minutes. Add to this the power play, which still ranks eighth in the NHL but is 4-for-46 in the past 15 games, and it is clear that the Lightning are enduring a significant power outage.

"Hopefully we can turn that around tonight," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We're going to have to do that soon because there are too many teams that have closed the gap and are starting to pass us now.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.27.2013 / 2:45 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning give Bishop rest; Lindback faces Flyers

TAMPA -- Despite producing a 37-save shutout against the New York Rangers on Monday, Ben Bishop will take a seat on the bench and Anders Lindback will start in net for the Tampa Bay Lightning when they meet the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

"Ben has been exceptional for us," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "At this rate, if you do the math, Bishop will play more games potentially this year than he has played in his NHL career total. Part of it is just managing his minutes.

"On the other hand, Lindback is extremely capable and he needs games. This is just part of the plan."

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Posted On Monday, 11.25.2013 / 2:12 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Kucherov to play first NHL game for Lightning

TAMPA -- For the Tampa Bay Lightning, coming off a four-game West Coast road swing where they went 0-3-1, there very well may be no place like home. At least, they hope so.

Monday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum the Lightning will met the New York Rangers, a team they have lost three straight games to by a combined score of 12-4.

To make matters that much more difficult, New York has won six of its last nine games and has the most road wins in the Eastern Conference with eight.

With Steven Stamkos out with a broken tibia and Ryan Malone nursing a lower-body injury, the Lightning have reached down to their American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse and promoted forward Nikita Kucherov, a second-round selection (No. 58) in the 2011 NHL Draft. This game will mark Kucherov's NHL debut after only 17 games with Syracuse.

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Posted On Thursday, 11.14.2013 / 7:35 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Ducks' Perry in lineup against Lightning

TAMPA -- Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry, fighting the flu, will be in the lineup when the Ducks face the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night.

Perry will skate on a line with Nick Bonino and Dustin Penner.

Anaheim, in the middle of a four-game road trip through the Eastern Time Zone, has been hit with the flu bug. Center Ryan Getzlaf will miss his third consecutive game.

Getzlaf, on the road to recovery, may be available against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night, coach Bruce Boudreau said Thursday morning. If not, then certainly next week when Anaheim concludes its road trip against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Posted On Thursday, 11.07.2013 / 1:18 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Oilers' Hall ready to return against Lightning

TAMPA -- Edmonton Oilers left wing Taylor Hall will make his return to the lineup Thursday when the team visits the Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Hall, out since Oct. 22 with a knee injury, has been cleared to play by the Edmonton medical staff.

"When they told me I'd be out four weeks you always think you can get back a little sooner," Hall said. "You never know what is going to happen with that process but I had a feeling I'd be back sooner than that. You never know how you're going to come back from an injury but I feel good enough to play, so it's time to play."

Hall said he'll be wearing a knee brace for the remainder of the season.

"It's fine," he said. "It's a little clunky but it feels good on my knee."

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Posted On Saturday, 11.02.2013 / 11:20 AM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning, Blues feeling confident after shutouts

TAMPA -- After the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Louis Blues each posted a shutout against their respective opponent Friday night, they rested Saturday morning.

The Lightning arrived home from Raleigh, N.C., where they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. St. Louis made the hop north from Sunrise, Fla., after shutting out the Florida Panthers 4-0. With each team having played the night before, morning skates were optional, with only a handful of players on the ice.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper tapped Ben Bishop to start in net Saturday against the Blues. Bishop stopped all 31 shots he faced against the Hurricanes for his eighth win and first shutout of the season.

The Blues are expected to counter with Jaroslav Halak in net.

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Posted On Saturday, 10.26.2013 / 11:54 AM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning don't want to underestimate Sabres

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning wrap up their longest homestand of the season against the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night, and they are finishing the seven-game stint with an extra morning off.

Both teams had optional skates this morning and very few players took advantage of the ice time.

But while the Buffalo Sabres, who won their second game of the season Friday night against the Florida Panthers, were not on the ice Saturday morning, they certainly were on the mind of Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who cautioned his team not to take Buffalo lightly.

"All we remember is that we played Buffalo once and we had to grind out the game in overtime to get two points," Cooper said. "One thing you can't do is look at the standings. Just look at last year because we were 28th, so Buffalo might be saying, ‘oh wow, we have to be careful not to look past Tampa.'

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Posted On Thursday, 10.24.2013 / 1:44 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blackhawks give Khabibulin start against Lightning

TAMPA -- It was almost 10 years ago that Nikolai Khabibulin led the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup, and since then the Chicago Blackhawks goaltender has played one game in Tampa against his former team. On Thursday he gets to play his second.

"We wanted to get Khabibulin a game on this road trip and I thought Tampa would be the right one," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "After all, he does have some history here."

He certainly does. Especially the last few moments of Game 7 of the 2004 Final, when he made a diving save on Calgary Flames defenseman Jordan Leopold to preserve the win and give the Lightning the Cup.

"I still think about that save," Khabibulin said, "but less and less as time goes by. Sometimes it pops up, kind of like, 'What if?'"

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Posted On Saturday, 10.19.2013 / 1:55 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Bruins' Soderberg could make season debut

TAMPA -- Carl Soderberg may make his season debut Saturday for the Boston Bruins when his team plays at the Tampa Bay Lightning. But then again, he may not.

Soderberg, recovering from an ankle injury, skated with the team Saturday morning but afterward was unsure if he would be in the lineup or not.

"I have no idea," he said.

His coach wasn't offering any answers either.

"I haven't told anybody yet if Soderberg is in the lineup," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "That's why the players don't know. I haven't made that decision yet."

Julien said he won't make that decision until shortly before the puck drops.

"It's a difficult decision as to who to take out," he said. "It's pretty obvious that it is not an easy decision but you better make those decisions come game time, right?"

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Posted On Thursday, 10.17.2013 / 7:31 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

St. Louis in Lightning lineup

Martin St. Louis, questionable because of a foot injury, is in the starting lineup for the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night.

St. Louis will be skating with his usual line of Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone.

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Posted On Thursday, 10.17.2013 / 1:06 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

St. Louis questionable for Lightning

TAMPA -- When the Tampa Bay Lightning take the ice Thursday against the Minnesota Wild, they might be missing one of their premier players, captain Martin St. Louis.

St. Louis was hit in the foot by a shot while killing a penalty during the Lightning's 5-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, and while tests have not shown any fracture, his status for the game is up in the air.

"Let's get this out of the way -- Marty is a game-time decision," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We will see what happens over the next few hours but he's an option to play. I don't want someone in there who may be apprehensive and not the Marty we are used to seeing. But we'll find out at game time."

Brett Connolly was recalled from the team's American Hockey League affiliate as a precaution and he skated this morning in St. Louis' spot alongside Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone.

"If they need me I'll be ready," Connolly said.

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Posted On Tuesday, 10.15.2013 / 12:54 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Kings put Carter, Kopitar on same line

TAMPA -- The Los Angeles Kings are in the midst of a three-game win streak, but that hasn't stopped coach Darryl Sutter from doing a little line shuffling.

When the Kings take the ice Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, look for Mike Richards to play between Justin Williams and Dustin Brown, while Jeff Carter will shift to the wing on a line with center Anze Kopitar and Dwight King. Daniel Carcillo was moved down to the fourth line.

Sutter downplayed the change as "insignificant," pointing out that his top four skaters get significant ice time together on power plays.

"They play a lot together as it is," Sutter said. "Their minutes are different than everyone else."

Here is the line the Kings likely will use Tuesday:

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Posted On Tuesday, 10.15.2013 / 11:47 AM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning ready for another 'test'

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning continue their season-long seven-game homestand when they host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

For the Lightning, coming off a last-minute loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the matchup against the Kings figures to be a test of where they stand early in the season.

"We keep running into these tests," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Like, wow, this whole League is a test, I'm finding out."

It's hard to blame him for feeling that way. In Tampa Bay's first five games they have faced the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and now the Los Angeles Kings.

"Again, we're playing another team that their whole core is together," Cooper said. "They played deep into the [postseason]. They throw four lines at you, they are big and they are strong."

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Posted On Saturday, 10.12.2013 / 1:04 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins look to end Lightning's three-game streak

TAMPA BAY -- The Tampa Bay Lightning continue their season-long seven-game homestand when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Tampa Bay could have found an easier opportunity to put their three-game winning streak on the line against, as the Penguins enter the game having won six straight games and eight of their past 10 meetings against the Lightning, including a 6-3 win in one of the 16 games that Lightning coach Jon Cooper was behind the bench for last season.

"That game could just as well have been 16-2," Cooper said.

After that dominating performance, Cooper has circled this game on the schedule as an important test for the Lightning.

"This one I've been looking forward to," Cooper said. "Just in the sense that it is a measuring stick for us. This is the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference. I know it's really early and I don't know how much you can take from it but on a personal side and for our team I want to see where we are at."

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Posted On Thursday, 10.10.2013 / 1:39 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning look to get more consistency out of Panik

TAMPA -- With Tom Pyatt out with a broken collar bone suffered during the Tampa Bay Lightning's win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, coach Jon Cooper is turning to Richard Panik to fill the gap.

Panik made the team out of training camp but did not look effective in the first two games and was a healthy scratch against the Sabres. He is a player Cooper knows well, having played for the coach previously in the American Hockey League.

"Richard is a high-end talent and he’s just got to -- he knows it, we've talked about this -- whether you are new to the League or old, you have to bring it every single night," Cooper said, "and there are times he's been exceptional for us and times he hasn't. He's just growing as a young player. It's not to the point where he doesn't belong in the League. Maybe for one night he didn't belong in the lineup.

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Posted On Thursday, 10.10.2013 / 12:55 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning vs. Panthers reunites Cooper, Dineen

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning open their home season Thursday after playing their first three games on the road. The Lightning (2-1-0) host a team probably as road-weary as they are in the Florida Panthers. Florida (1-2-0) has yet to see its home ice, and this will be the fourth consecutive road game for the club.

The matchup reunites two friendly rivals from their American Hockey League days: Jon Cooper, in his first full season as coach of the Lightning, and Kevin Dineen, beginning his third season behind the bench for the Panthers.

"We have mutual friends," Cooper said, "and before we got to know each other, he was coaching in Portland and I was coaching in Norfolk and we were going to meet after a game and they had a 3-0 lead on us and we stormed back in the third to eventually win in overtime and we had to walk across the ice and I remember we were going to meet on the ice and then I thought, nah, and I just let him go. We met an hour later.

"He's a really competitive guy and above his competitiveness he's a great guy and I got a lot of time for him. We have kind of an inter-rivalry dating back to the AHL, but it will never come to a problem. I enjoy his company, and I'll enjoy it more when we beat him tonight."

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.11.2013 / 3:33 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Lightning coach Cooper has big head start

TAMPA, Fla. -- He had 16 games behind the bench to finish last season, but Jon Cooper opened his first training camp as the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

Cooper, who joined the Lightning from the club's American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, went 5-8-3 with a team hurt by injuries and which finished 14th in the Eastern Conference, but there is no discounting how much that brief spell leading the team has proved invaluable for him.

"Just getting to know the landscape helped," Cooper said. "The travel, the day-to-day operation, everything that goes on in the League, meeting the media on a daily basis, just things that you don't plan for to take up your time and all of a sudden your day is gone and you don't know what happened with it. That was big for me in the month I was here.

"The second big thing was getting the relationship with the players, being able to find out, in anticipation of this year, who could play where. Moving in, I just have a better grasp on the team."

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.11.2013 / 2:46 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Sans Lecavalier, Lightning ready for youth movement

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday opened their first training camp without Vincent Lecavalier since 1998, and the emphasis definitely is on youth and the future.

Lecavalier, now with the Philadelphia Flyers, had his absence noted, but for many his departure is viewed as a mixed blessing.

"Not having Vinny here is a little weird," veteran forward Ryan Malone said, "but we recognize it as a business decision."

It is a new day in Tampa Bay, and the door is open for an enthusiastic collection of members of the Lightning's American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, to make their mark.

"We've had to absorb some big losses on our roster, but that's the door opening for some of the young talent, and a lot of this talent has won before," Lightning coach Jon Cooper, starting his first full season with the team, said. "They have it in them. They know what it takes. This is just another little step they have to take. There will be some battles and I'm pretty excited to see which ones grab the torch."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.27.2013 / 12:10 PM

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

Individual honors motivate Lightning in season finale

TAMPA -- It's Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos against the Florida Panthers on Saturday -- or at least it seems that way, as the last bit of excitement for two teams that end their season with this game at the Tampa Bay Times Forum centers around St. Louis' pursuit of the Art Ross Trophy for most points in the NHL and Stamkos' quest for the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals.

Make no mistake, the entire Tampa Bay Lightning squad will be on hand, but mostly just to assist both players in their pursuits.

"They are talented players and we'd be lying to say that it's not in the back of our minds," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "In the last game of the year, if we can ultimately get two players to be recognized for how they played all year and their accomplishments, we'll do our best to help them out."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.24.2013 / 1:31 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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."

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Posted On Sunday, 04.21.2013 / 11:26 AM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.11.2013 / 1:02 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.09.2013 / 1:28 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.02.2013 / 11:50 AM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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."

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Posted On Friday, 03.29.2013 / 12:47 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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.

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 1:12 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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:

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 12:59 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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.

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Posted On Monday, 03.18.2013 / 12:34 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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:

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Posted On Saturday, 03.16.2013 / 12:26 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 12:54 PM

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

Lecavalier heading to IR with lower-body injury

TAMPA -- As if it weren't enough that the Tampa Bay Lightning have lost seven of their past nine games, Thursday morning they also lost captain Vincent Lecavalier.

Lecavalier was placed on injured reserve as a result of a hit he sustained in the third period of Tampa Bay's 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. Although the injured-reserve status puts Lecavalier out of action for a minimum of seven days (retroactive to Tuesday), Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he expects Lecavalier will be sidelined longer than that.

"Lecavalier plays a lot of minutes," Yzerman said. "It's a big hole in our lineup. He's one of our key faceoff guys and power-play guys. It's a difficult hole to fill, but we have to try to look at something positive. Someone's going to come down from Syracuse (American Hockey League) and get an opportunity."

That someone will be Tyler Johnson, an undrafted center who leads the AHL with 32 goals and leads the Lightning affiliate with 58 points. Johnson will make his NHL debut Thursday night when Tampa Bay hosts the New York Islanders.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.09.2013 / 12:23 PM

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

Desjardins to get start for Lightning

TAMPA - In recent games, Tampa Bay Lightning starting goaltender Anders Lindback has occasionally been prone to allowing questionable goals. But coach Guy Boucher said that is not the reason he will turn to Cedrick Desjardins Saturday night when his team meets the Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

It’s not exactly a shot in the dark for Boucher to look to Desjardins, who hasn't appeared in an NHL game since Jan. 1, 2011. A former Montreal prospect, Desjardins faced the Canadiens in his NHL debut on Dec. 30, 2010 and made 27 saves in a 4-1 Lightning win.

But Boucher discounted that as the reason he is turning to his backup netminder, who is actually three years older than 24-year-old Lindback.

“Lindback is a young guy that needs to grow through the hurts and successes that a young guy has to go through," Boucher said after the team's morning skate. "We told him we are going to manage his number of games. We played him probably too much for a while. As a young guy, we have to manage him like we do our forwards and defensemen: Give him his games but not give him too much to chew on.

“There are times he has been great and moments where it’s a learning process for him. He [Lindback] played two [straight] games and I would have changed him anyway. So it’s not about the Canadiens and it’s not even about Lindback. It’s just the fact that I was going to put someone else in after two games, so that’s why Desjardins is going in.”

This is Desjardins’ second time around with the Lightning. He was reacquired by Tampa Bay on Feb. 14 in exchange for netminder Dustin Tokarski. And although he played (and won) two games for the team during the 2010-11 campaign, Boucher isn't taking those appearances into consideration.

“We want to see what we have. We’ve been doing this since the beginning. We’re playing our young guys. We’re playing guys from our American League team. That’s for all positions," Boucher said. "We just feel like we have quality depth and we want this organization to grow. To do that, we don’t want to wait. We want to see what our young guys have. I feel like this is the moment to put him in. If I don’t do it now, I may not get a chance. [Mathieu] Garon will be returning soon and if I don’t put Desjardins in now, I may not get a chance.”

Here are the teams' projected lineups for Saturday's matchup:

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Posted On Thursday, 03.07.2013 / 12:48 PM

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

Malone's return creates lineup crunch for Lightning

TAMPA -- Ryan Malone will return to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup when they host the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Malone, who missed 13 games with a lower-body injury, was cleared to play after the morning skate. His return, while welcomed, does create a lineup dilemma for coach Guy Boucher.

"[Alexander] Killorn has been outstanding, [Ondrej] Palat too, so they are not coming out," Boucher said. "[Pierre-Cedric] Labrie brings us a lot of grit and enthusiasm. We don't want to change that. Those young guys have been terrific."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.26.2013 / 1:10 PM

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

Malone on ice for Lightning, not ready to return yet

TAMPA -- Injured forward Ryan Malone was on ice with his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates at Tuesday's morning skate, though he wore an orange "no-contact" jersey.

"Ryan Malone is on the ice; that's a good step," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "That's the second step. Off-ice he's doing really well and we'll get him ready on-ice, and I'm sure we'll see him soon. Soon is not tonight. It's hard to say when he'll be back. He's got a few days to work with the therapist, and after that we'll get him in a real practice. Step three in the recovery will be an actual game. I wouldn't say he's three weeks away, but it's not today or the next game."

As Malone, who has missed eight games with a lower-body injury, works toward a return, Boucher faces an interesting dilemma when it comes to finding a spot for him.


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Posted On Thursday, 02.21.2013 / 1:15 PM

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

Compact schedule has yet to gang up on Bruins

TAMPA, Fla. -- When the schedule maker smiles on you, you accept it and smile back.

So far in this shortened season, the Boston Bruins have had a lot to smile about regarding their schedule. To date, they have played the fewest number of games in the NHL. The current League high is 18 games played; Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum will be game No. 14 for the Bruins.

And after Thursday, they get another break before facing the Florida Panthers on Sunday.

"Time off seems to be a recurring theme with our schedule of late," Boston forward Shawn Thornton said. "If I get caught saying it's a vacation I’m going to get yelled at. We had a couple of days off and had some practices to get ready for this -- at this point in the season we are fairly rested, so we should have a lot of energy. I think rest is a good thing, especially with the condensed schedule, so I'm going to look at it as a positive."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 1:00 PM

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

Lightning figure to have hands full with Maple Leafs

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will be seeking to end a three-game home slide Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The good news? Their opponent is playing the second half of back-to-back road games, and the Lightning have had excellent results when catching a team in that scenario.

The bad news? Their opponent is the sizzling Toronto Maple Leafs, coming off a 3-0 shutout of the Florida Panthers on Monday night. Toronto has posted a 7-2-0 record in their first nine road games of the season, a record of road success the likes of which the Maple Leafs have not enjoyed since the 1940-41 season.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 1:37 PM

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

Garon to start for Lightning in place of Lindback

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will be looking to break a five-game winless streak when they meet the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and coach Guy Boucher will be going to the back-up goaltender to get matters turned around.

But not because he wants to; because he has to.

Anders Lindback, who has started seven of the past nine games for Tampa Bay, is out ill, so Mathieu Garon gets the call in net. As to the extent of Lindback's illness, Boucher sounded as in the dark as anyone.

"I don't know how sick he is," Boucher said. "I have no clue. I don't know if he'll dress tonight. He's home right now and I have no clue. They're going to call him back and see how he's doing later; it might just be a one- or two-hour thing, but right now we're going with Garon in net. That's what I control; the rest -- it's somebody else's business right now.”

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Posted On Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 12:53 PM

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

Yzerman: Trade shores up Tampa Bay goalie depth

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman met with the media after the morning skate to discuss the swap of netminders announced Thursday morning, which sent Lightning American Hockey League prospect Dustin Tokarski to the Montreal Canadiens organization in exchange for Cedric Desjardins of the Hamilton Bulldogs.

"We've had Cedric in our organization before and we know him," Yzerman said. "We think he's a very good -- actually excellent -- goaltender at the AHL level and he played for us for a couple of games. We just think he is more ready to play for us if we need him in here. We know the person; we like him and we think he's a good goaltender."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 1:07 PM

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

Boucher liked what he saw from Killorn's debut

TAMPA, Fla. -- There wasn't much for the Tampa Bay Lightning to cheer about Sunday as they concluded a winless 0-3 road trip with a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of the New York Rangers for their fourth consecutive loss, but coach Guy Boucher did find one bright spot.

Alexander Killorn, making his NHL debut after being called up from Syracuse of the American Hockey League, picked up an assist and skated aggressively in 13:17 minutes of ice time.

"The AHL is a development league; the NHL is a performance league," Boucher said. "You're here to win. When a young guy enters your lineup it is not time for experiments; it's time to see if he can hack it. Can he contribute? Is he reliable? And if he is, you can show him more ice time.

"I saw Killorn in the first two shifts, I start him on the third line and then I realized that he had assets and he's proving it right now and I can use him with top guys, so he deserves it. It's not a question of age or experience, it's a matter of if they are ready. If a guy is ready, let's go."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 12:24 PM

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

Lightning's Malone to miss 3-4 weeks

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning General manager Steve Yzerman set out to build depth in the organization, and his results are getting an early test. Forward Ryan Malone will be lost to the team for 3-4 weeks due to a lower-body injury aggravated during a pregame soccer ball kick-around.

The injury occurred Sunday prior to the Lightning's game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and marks the third consecutive season Malone has lost game time due to injuries.

"I'd love to be able to figure it out," coach Guy Boucher said of the recurring injuries. "Then we could plan things. It's a short season and to be out for one month, that's a lot."

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Posted On Friday, 02.01.2013 / 12:44 PM

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

Lightning chase fifth straight win, 5-0 home mark

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will go for their fifth consecutive win when they face the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The game marks the third time during this five-game homestand that the Lightning have caught a team on the back end of back-to-back games. The Jets lost 6-3 to the Florida Panthers in Sunrise on Thursday night.

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Posted On Friday, 02.01.2013 / 12:18 PM

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

Mikkelson doing well after scary injury at practice

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Brendan Mikkelson dodged serious injury at Thursday's practice, but not before putting a good scare into everyone watching.

Mikkelson lost an edge and went flying headfirst into the boards. He briefly lost consciousness and was removed on a gurney to Tampa General Hospital, where he was treated and released.

"I'm sore today," Mikkelson said. "I was hustling after the puck because Steven Stamkos was right behind me, and I just blew a tire. No headaches, nothing on the CAT scans, I just have never had anything like that happen to me before. I'm pretty stiff and sore today."

Mikkelson will sit out on a day-to-day basis until he is cleared to play.

"I don't have a timetable for his return," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said, "but I feel real fortunate because it wasn't pretty yesterday at practice. Headfirst into the boards, his shoulder, and he wasn't moving. It wasn't looking good, but we got lucky there."

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Posted On Friday, 02.01.2013 / 12:04 PM

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

Jets' Byfuglien to miss second straight game

TAMPA, Fla. -- Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel said defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will sit out Firday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning due to an undisclosed lower-body injury.

This will be the second straight game Byfuglien has missed. He also sat out Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers.

In six games, he has three goals and four assists.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 12:28 PM

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

Versteeg back as struggling Panthers face Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- It might be early in the season, but the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers have been speeding in opposite directions.

The Panthers (1-4-0) will face the Lightning (4-1-0) on Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in the first of five games this season between the teams. The Panthers arrive staggering, having dropped their past four games in regulation. Saturday night in Sunrise, they were manhandled by the Philadelphia Flyers, 7-1.

Florida has been hit by some key injuries, but forward Kris Versteeg is set to return to the lineup and make his season debut against the Lightning.

For Tampa Bay, the picture could not be more different. The Lightning are riding a four-game win streak and have yet to lose on home ice through three contests. Their game on Sunday was perhaps their best of the season, a solid 5-1 victory over the Flyers.

In that game, eight different players hit the score sheet for Tampa Bay, and five games into the season, 12 skaters have found the back of the net. Steven Stamkos has a five-game season-long scoring streak entering Tuesday, and Martin St. Louis has eight assists, including four against the Flyers.

Despite the positives, Lightning coach Guy Boucher is taking nothing for granted against their cross-state rival.

"Their coach (Kevin Dineen) said he was really disappointed after their last game and that they would be ready for the next one," Boucher said. "They have urgency, they have lost four in a row, Versteeg's back -- they will come out charging."

For his part, Boucher doesn't plan to mess with what is working and the Lightning will send out a lineup identical to their previous game.

For the Panthers, Drew Shore, who played in the AHL All-Star Game on Monday in Providence, R.I., should be back in time to be in the lineup.

"Drew’s made some good strides early," Dineen said, "and his compete level is fairly high, so he deserves to continue to get a quality shot here."

But the big addition for Florida is Versteeg.

"Our confidence level is not huge right now," Dineen said, "but one of Versteeg's strengths is that he can go out and affect the outcome of the game."

LIGHTNING

Ryan MaloneSteven Stamkos – Martin St. Louis

Cory ConacherVincent LecavalierTeddy Purcell

Adam HallNate ThompsonB.J. Crombeen

Tom PyattBenoit PouliotDana Tyrell

Eric BrewerMatthew Carle

Victor HedmanSami Salo

Brian LeeKeith Aulie

Anders Lindback

Mathieu Garon

Scratches: Brendan Mikkelson, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Marc-Andre Bergeron

PANTHERS

Kris VersteegTomas KopeckyTomas Fleischmann

Jonathan HuberdeauPeter MuellerAlex Kovalev

Scottie UpshallShawn MatthiasDrew Shore

George ParrosJerred SmithsonJack Skille

Filip KubaBrian Campbell

Ed JovanovskiKeaton Ellerby

Mike WeaverDmitry Kulikov

Jose Theodore

Scott Clemmensen

Scratches: Mike Santorelli, Tyson Strachan

Injuries: Stephen Weiss, Marcel Goc, Sean Bergenheim, Erik Gudbranson, Michael Caruso

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Posted On Sunday, 01.27.2013 / 11:50 AM

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

Lightning welcome Flyers, hope to stay perfect at home

TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Lightning will look for recent history to repeat itself when they meet the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Lightning will put their 2-0-0 home record on the line against a Flyers team that had gotten off to a slow start but now seem to have their game together. Philadelphia (2-3-0) has won two games in a row, including a 7-1 thrashing Saturday night of the Florida Panthers.

On Friday night, the Lightning faced the then-undefeated Ottawa Senators in the second of back-to-back games after Ottawa had skated against the Florida Panthers the day prior. In that contest, Tampa Bay fired three third-period goals for a comeback win.

The Flyers arrive in Tampa in the exact same situation and the Lightning are hoping for the exact same result.

“We have to take advantage of them early,” Steven Stamkos said. “Maybe they will be a little tired.”

Lightning coach Guy Boucher is not counting on that, however.

“I don’t think (playing back-to-back games) will be an issue for them,” Boucher said. “They won 7-1 last night and rested their top guys in the third period so they are coming in charging.”

The Flyers had an optional morning skate with only a few players on the ice.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

FLYERS

Wayne Simmonds - Claude Giroux - Matt Read

Danny Briere - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek

Mike Knuble - Brayden Schenn - Ruslan Fedotenko

Tye McGinn - Maxime Talbot - Scott Laughton

Kimmo Timonen - Luke Schenn

Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn

Kurtis Foster - Bruno Gervais

Ilya Bryzgalov

Michael Leighton

LIGHTNING

Ryan MaloneSteven Stamkos – Martin St. Louis

Cory ConacherVincent LecavalierTeddy Purcell

Adam HallNate ThompsonB.J. Crombeen

Tom PyattBenoit PouliotDana Tyrell

Eric BrewerMatthew Carle

Victor HedmanSami Salo

Brian LeeKeith Aulie

Anders Lindback

Mathieu Garon

Scratched: Brandan Mikkelson, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Marc-Andre Bergeron

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Posted On Friday, 01.25.2013 / 2:16 PM

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

Lightning start long homestand against hot Senators

TAMPA, Fla. -- This is the first of five straight home games for the Tampa Bay Lightning -- the team's longest homestand of the season.

“For us, this is one game. [Friday night], we are playing the Ottawa Senators,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “That’s all I’m focusing on. This game. Period.”

Vincent Lecavalier will be honored before the game for playing in his 1,000th NHL game Monday night in Uniondale against the New York Islanders. This will be the first home game since Lecavalier reached his milestone.

The Lightning will hold an eight-minute ceremony prior to the game during which his teammates will present gifts and the team will honor him with the traditional inscribed silver stick. Lecavalier is expecting 35 friends and family members to be in attendance.

The Senators are undefeated after three games and have yielded two goals, but will have a slightly different look against the Lightning. Coach Paul MacLean announced after the team's skate Friday that forward Kaspars Daugavins and defenseman Mark Borowiecki will replace Guillaume Latendresse and Patrick Wiercioch in the lineup. Latendresse reportedly has a minor injury, while Wiercioch appears to be a healthy scratch.

Ottawa goaltender Ben Bishop will get the call in net, his first start of the season. Bishop collected his first win with the Senators against the Lightning, a 7-3 victory on March 6, 2012.

“That’s got to help,” Bishop said. “It’s a good memory.”

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis – Steven StamkosRyan Malone

Cory ConacherVincent LecavalierTeddy Purcell

Nate ThompsonAdam HallB.J. Crombeen

Tom PyattBenoit Pouliot

Eric Brewer – Matt Carle

Victor HedmanSami Salo

Brian LeeMarc-Andre Bergeron

Keith Aulie

Anders Lindback

Mathieu Garon

Scratched: Dana Tyrell, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Brendan Mikkelson

NOTE: Tampa Bay will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

MacLean told reporters he wasn't sure how the Senators' lineup would shake out because of the two changes. Latendresse had been skating on Ottawa's second line with Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson, while Wiercioch had been part of the team's third defense pairing with Andre Benoit.

SENATORS

Milan MichalekJason SpezzaJakob Silfverberg

Kaspars DaugavinsKyle TurrisDaniel Alfredsson

Colin GreeningZack SmithChris Neil

Peter Regin – Jim O’Brien – Erik Condra

Erik KarlssonMarc Methot

Sergei GoncharChris Phillips

Andre BenoitMark Borowiecki

Ben Bishop

Craig Anderson

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:07 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Lightning, Capitals excited to start season

TAMPA, Fla. –- The Tampa Bay Lightning open their 20th anniversary season by hosting the Washington Capitals at the sold-out Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.

It’s not quite business as usual, though, as emotions and nerves were running high in both locker rooms.

“This is not a normal night,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said after the morning skate. “It’s exciting for everyone. The players have been waiting for a long time, the fans have been waiting for a long time and I’ve been waiting for a long time. It’s here and it’s now and we’re all eager to go.”

The day promises to be especially exciting for Cory Conacher, who will be making his NHL debut skating on a line with Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell.

“Yeah, it’s hit me,” Connacher said. “I want to act like I’ve been here before but even just walking into the rink tonight will be a great experience.”

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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 1:10 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning promise 'work-ethic show' against Capitals

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning play their final home game of the 2011-12 season Monday night when the Washington Capitals visit the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

For the Capitals, with three regular season games remaining and a slim two-point grip on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the game has huge postseason implications.

"It's a big game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "We need all those points and we have to be ready to battle out there and get our two points."

But for the Lightning, the contest is meaningful, too, as they have the chance to play spoiler and send the home crowd off with optimism for the future.

With that in mind, Tampa Bay is planning somewhat of a fan appreciation night.

"We'll try to give the fans a great show tonight," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "Regardless of playoffs or no playoffs, we've always talked about isolating games and this game is isolated. We want to please our fans with a work-ethic show."

To the players' disappointment, there is little else left for them to offer the fans now except hard work.

"We're disappointed that we won't be playing some hockey in April and May," Martin St. Louis said. "It's a tough League and we want to finish strong and make the fans feel good about the last home game. It's not about the wins and losses, it's the effort you put on the ice. The fans will recognize the work ethic and the effort, and if you do that you give yourself a good chance to win games. We'll work on that tonight."

Also on display, though the team is playing it down, will be Steven Stamkos' continued drive to be the first NHL player to get 60 goals since Alex Ovechkin notched 65 in 2007-08. Stamkos currently has 56 with four games remaining.

"I'll be honest, I'm not big on these things," Boucher said. "Nobody in the room talks about that. The only people that talk about it are the media. If he gets 59, does that diminish him as a player? When players chase these intangibles they aren't part of a team-oriented mentality. Steven is the first guy to be an unselfish, team-oriented guy. Whether he stays at 56 or goes to 62 he's still going to be a great leader, and I wouldn't be surprised if he had 59 and an open net, if he didn't pass the puck to someone else."

Boucher might not be surprised, but everyone else in the building would be.

Still, Stamkos has been making a point of telling teammates not to go out of their way to set him up for scoring chances.

"I think what Steven is saying with that is that he wants everyone to understand that he's not going after 60 goals," Boucher said. "He's going after our team winning. But that's him. That's what makes Steven special. He sees things as they are and he's a great leader for it."

This is the sixth and final meeting between these two clubs this season. The Capitals have won three of five, but the Lightning (2-1-2) have points in four of five. They have defeated the Capitals in two home games previously.
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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 1:06 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Capitals, Lightning

Here's how the lineups project when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Washington Capitals on Monday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Keith Aucoin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Mike Knuble

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - John Carlson

Michal Neuvirth
Braden Holtby

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - J.T. Brown 
Tim Wallace - Tom Pyatt - Nate Thompson
Brandon Segal - JT Wyman - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Keith Aulie
Brian Lee - Brendan Mikkelson

Dwayne Roloson
Sebastien Caron

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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:00 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Brown set for NHL debut with Lightning

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning open their final homestand of the season when they play host to the Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.

With just two home games remaining and after two consecutive losses, it might appear like the Lightning are just playing out the string, but that assumption would be incorrect. Lightning coach Guy Boucher promises a full effort from his team.

“We play great at home and have respected our fans with our work ethic,” Boucher said.  “Our fans have given back to us by filling the stands every game. It’s important that we recognize that, but I want us to recognize that with a 60-minute effort. We’re playing a tough team and I don’t know if we’ll win or lose but there is one thing we can control and that is our work ethic.”

That effort has been absent in Tampa Bay’s previous two games -- losses to Boston and New Jersey. In both games, the Lightning started well but lackluster second periods changed the momentum of the contest completely.

“We get a great focus to start games and we’re short-staffed so I think the players come on the ice and they don’t want to get their butts kicked and it shows,” Boucher said.  “But I feel like when the first period is over they have a sense of relief. We don’t want that. The relief is when the game is over, the full 60 minutes.”

The Lightning will debut their newest acquisition Saturday night -- forward J.T. Brown, who signed March 28 as a college free agent from Minnesota-Duluth. The 21-year old was the MVP of the 2011 Frozen Four as he led the Bulldogs to the NCAA title.

Brown is the son of former Vikings running back Ted Brown, but unlike his father, the younger Brown’s sport was hockey rather than football.

“I played football until I was in ninth grade and then I had to make a choice to go one way or the other,” Brown said. “I like football but I have a passion for hockey.”

Brown had plenty of suitors once he announced his intention to leave school after his sophomore season, but said he chose to sign with Tampa Bay (a two-year deal) because he felt the Lightning would give him an opportunity to play right away.

He’s getting that, for sure.

“He’s going to play the remaining five games,” Boucher said. “We’ll give him some ice time with some quality players and give him the time to show us some of the stuff that our scouts have seen in him.

“He’s eager. He’s a young guy who is going to play in the NHL. Those were nerve-racking days, yesterday and today, signing his contract and all that. It’s a dream week but also a tough week to manage for him. We know that and the players he will play with are aware of that, too and they are ready to help him.”

They can start by helping him relax before the game.

“This is an exciting moment in my life,” Brown said. “Your first NHL game only happens once so I’ll try to make the best of it tonight. I usually take a pre-game nap but we’ll have to see if I can get one in today or not.”

Winnnipeg arrives for the second game in a back-to-back series, having kept its meager playoff hopes alive Friday night with a 4-3 overtime win in Carolina.

Saturday’s matchup is the fifth of six meetings between the Jets and the Lightning this season. The Jets have won three of the first four.

JETS

Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Antti Miettinen
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Wellwood - Tim StapletonNik Antropov
Ben Maxwell- Jim Slater - Spencer Machacek

Zach Bogosian - Ron Hainsey
Dustin Byfuglien - Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart - Grant Clitsome

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - J.T. Brown
Tim Wallace - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
JT Wyman - Trevor Smith - Brandon Segal

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Brian Lee
Brendan Mikkelson - Mike Commodore

Sebastien Caron
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 1:24 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Slumping Lightning close homestand against Islanders

TAMPA -- When the Lightning unpacked their bags and settled in at home 14 days ago, they had some serious hopes of making the playoffs. Now, heading into the final game of their season-long, seven-game homestand against the New York Islanders on Saturday night, they are perilously closer to falling into the Eastern Conference cellar rather than finding the postseason.

Going 2-4-0 is not how Tampa Bay hoped this series of games would play out, and they are now a mere two points ahead of the Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens at the bottom of the standings.

To make matters more difficult for the Lightning, New York arrives in the midst of a minor revival, seeking their first three-game win streak since Jan. 17-21. They have racked up consecutive road wins over Montreal and Toronto and are 3-1-1 in their last five away games.

“Those last two wins are building blocks,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We got contributions from lots of guys and that’s how you are going to win in this League.”

Saturday features the fourth and final matchup this season between these clubs, and the home team won each of the first three meetings. The Islanders have outscored the Lightning 11-6 thus far in the series.

Tampa Bay will continue to field two forward lines composed primarily of recalled AHL players, as none of the seven regulars on the injured list are ready to return. Despite the depleted lineup his club will face, Capuano still sees the game as a good test for the Islanders.

“Yes, the Lightning are beat up,” Capuano said, “but they still have lots of firepower up front. The key for us is to keep guys out of the penalty box.”

Capuano might be looking at some old numbers; after a brief five-game spurt during which their power play converted six times on 15 attempts, the Lightning have reverted back to their season-long form of 15.5 percent -- 24th in the League -- having scored only once in their last 14 extra-man opportunities.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

ISLANDERS

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Josh Bailey - Frans Neilson - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - David Ullstrom
Nino Niederreiter - Marty Reasoner - Matt Martin

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Streit - Dylan Reese
Mark Eaton - Steve Staios

Al Montoya
Evgeni Nabokov

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Brandon Segal - Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Brendan Mikkelson
Brian Lee - Bruno Gervais
Keith Aulie

Dwayne Roloson
Sebastien Caron
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 1:14 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Banged-up Lightning contend with improving Oilers

TAMPA -- The two teams meeting Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum are going nowhere fast; but one team seems as if it will get there quicker.

Both virtually eliminated from postseason contention (though the Lightning are still mathematically alive), the Edmonton Oilers and the Tampa Bay Lightning hook up for a rare face-to-face meeting, their first since Dec.10, 2010.

The Oilers are intent on ending their season on a good note and have compiled a 5-1-1 record over their past seven games, including a 6-3 schooling of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay, by contrast, is limping to the finish line, beset by enough injuries to make a good bit of their current roster resemble the Norfolk Admirals, their AHL affiliate. They are 1-5-1 over their last seven games, during which they have been outscored by a margin of 28-18.

"Goals are like bananas, they come in bunches," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.

Yes, he has no bananas, and Boucher can explain why.

"Half our team is from the AHL right now, so other teams key on our scorers and can shut them down, plus (Steven) Stamkos and (Martin) St. Louis and (Ryan) Malone are spending so much time on the ice, there is a wear and tear in there," he said.

Stamkos hasn't had a goal since reaching 50 three games ago, and St. Louis has 1 goal in his last 10 games.

But Boucher points out that the team is not just going to mail the last few games in.

"You can see the quality of our individuals; they are working extremely hard," Boucher said. "It's easy to close the books and just go through the motions, but that's not what these guys are doing. We had some meetings the past two days, but meetings are just words; they are showing me actions, and I'm impressed."

Dwayne Roloson, starting in net for the Lightning Thursday night, agreed.

"It's a difficult time," Roloson said, "but we have a lot of guys here now that have been up and down all year and it's an opportunity for everyone, myself included, to go out and play and some of the guys who don't have contracts for next year, and this is a chance to continue playing and maybe get an offer someplace else."

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

OILERS
Ryan Jones - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Teemu Hartikainen - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Lennart Petrell
Darcy Hordichuk - Eric Belanger - Ben Eager

Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Ryan Whitney - Nick Schultz
Theo Peckham - Corey Potter

Nikolai Khabibulin
Devan Dubnyk

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Brandon Segal - Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Eric BrewerVictor Hedman
Brett Clark - Keith Aulie
Brian Lee - Brendan Mikkelson
Bruno Gervais

Dwayne Roloson
Sebastien Caron



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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 1:43 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Likely lineups for Sabres, Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- Here are the lineups the Sabres and Lightning likely will use Monday when they meet here at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

SABRES
Corey Tropp - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Ville Leino - Cody Hodgson - Thomas Vanek
Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Cody McCormick - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta

Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Alexander Sulzer - Christian Ehrhoff
Mike Weber - Jordan Leopold

Ryan Miller will start in goal, with Jhonas Enroth the backup.

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Brandon Segal - Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Eric Brewer - Keith Aulie
Brett Clark - Victor Hedman
Brendan Mikkelson - Mike Commodore
Brian Lee

Dustin Tokarski will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson the backup.
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 1:39 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning add goaltender Caron

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Sebastien Caron, and hope to add him to the roster Tuesday, if he clears waivers.

Caron, whose equipment already was in place in the Lightning locker room, has been playing for German team Iserlohn Roosters and if all goes well, will join the team in time for Thursday's game against Edmonton.

Caron has appeared in 92 NHL games with a record of 25-47-12 with a 3.45 goals-against average.

"We'll go one game at a time and give him some time to get accustomed first, flying back here, being back in the NHL and getting used to NHL shots and NHL type of game, and we'll see when we can put him in," Boucher said.

Once Caron joins the team, Dustin Tokarski will be returned to AHL Norfolk for the playoffs.
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 1:37 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Injuries led to Lightning's slip in standings

TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Buffalo Sabres meet the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday at the Tampa Bay Times Fourm, on display will be a case of two teams heading in opposite directions.

Buffalo, two points behind Washington for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, has put together an enviable run at the postseason, going 9-2-3 over its last 14 games.

Tampa Bay, however, has fallen off the playoff trail, going 1-4-1 and dropping three of four during its seven-game homestand.

Adding to the Lightning's woes is the loss of two additional key players, Adam Hall and Ryan Shannon, bringing the total to eight regulars sidelined.

"I have a choice: Either I start crying, which I felt like, or I just look at it like it's ridiculous and just go with it," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "We've got two lines of AHL guys, but they work hard and they give us a chance to stay in games. The reality is everyone has got their own pace of development and we want to respect that."

Although Boucher's preference often is to play seven defensemen, usually it's a decision, rather than a mandate.

"I've got no choice," Boucher said. "I don't have 12 forwards. Let's not kid ourselves."

Twelve forwards or not, Monday's task appears to be a formidable one for the Lightning.

"We know what's going on," Boucher said. "They're on a high, they're playing terrific. They're bouncing at the perfect time and they're making a push and their game doesn't have any fog right now. They have speed and scoring ability on each line. Goaltender is playing incredible. They are one of the top teams in the League right now in terms of performance."

If Boucher looks at the Buffalo bench with some envy, he might be forgiven; earlier in the month the Lightning were just two points from the eighth spot, which is precisely where Buffalo is now.

"It's extremely frustrating to be right there and then lose all these guys," Boucher said. "It's very tough, but they have been handling it like men and it will pay off."

For Tampa Bay, though, the pay-off will have to be in the future.

"We all understand where we are," said forward Martin St. Louis. "When you are in the heart of the season and things happen, I think you're counted on as veteran leadership, but when it comes down to this sort of do-or-die situation, you have to look at yourself and see what you can do to pull us an inch closer. If you're waiting to look at somebody all the time, it's not going to happen."

The Sabres, on the other hand, are focused on what they have to do to make the playoffs and have gotten some breaks going their way, especially Sunday, when Winnipeg, with whom they currently are tied, and Washington, who they trail, both lost.

"There's always pressure making the playoffs, but we got a break last night when both those teams lost," Buffalo rookie Marcus Foligno said. "That's huge for us. It's about capitalizing on chances and we have a chance tonight against Tampa Bay."

Veteran Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who has seen his share of battles for the playoff, said, "We have to go game-by-game. We've won our share and we'll have to win more than our share down the stretch to get in."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 2:19 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

St. Louis prospect Schwartz set for NHL debut

TAMPA -- Sitting conspicuously atop a stack of St. Louis Blues equipment bags stacked outside the visitor’s locker room at Tampa Bay Times Forum is one that looks out of place.

That bag is labeled “Colorado College” and belongs to the newest acquisition of the Blues, Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz, a Blues’ first-round pick (14th overall) in 2010, signed an entry-level contract when his college season ended March 13 and joined the team on the current road trip in Carolina on March 15.

After two team practices, Schwartz will make his professional debut Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I’m definitely nervous,” Schwartz said after the morning skate. “Maybe more excited than anything, but hopefully after a few shifts the nerves will go away a little bit.”

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock is counting on that, and he’s not too worried that he’ll be wrong, either.

“He’ll take regular shifts tonight and we’ll get a read later on, but our attitude is that the more minutes we get him up to speed, the quicker the transition will be,” Hitchcock said. “We’ll get him lots of five-on-five time and he’s going to play on the power play and we’ll see.”

Hitchcock sounds a lot more assured than 19-year-old Schwartz, who admits that the pace of the action is different in the NHL.

“It’s a big difference from college hockey,” Schwartz said.  “It’s faster. The guys are a lot bigger and stronger, the passing is more tape-to-tape. It’s definitely an adjustment.”

A veteran coach like Hitchcock, who has been behind the bench for 1,041 NHL games, has seen more than his share of rookies and is confident that Schwartz will fit in.

“I thought he was really nervous when he first came here,” Hitchcock said. “I thought going from an emotional letdown to the high and then all of a sudden you’re getting systems slammed down your throat. He looked very comfortable during the practice in Carolina and he looked comfortable on the ice Friday, so that’s a good sign.”

And while the rookie’s nerves might be jumping as game time approaches, he won’t get much special attention or sympathy from his coach.

“Just play. It’s a big enough deal and to me it’s about the emotion and intensity of the moment and you don’t want to build it up more than it is," Hitchcock said. "When we’re with him, if we treat it like it’s another hockey game then we take the pressure off of him. He’s going to have pressure on himself and have enough anxiety going, so just play. Jaden’s not a high-wire act; he’s a very responsible player so if he’s going to err anywhere he’ll err on the side of caution and I think that will give him some good quality minutes tonight.

“I think the biggest adjustment is going to be time and space with the puck. He’s going to have to learn that but I look at all these other guys that have picked up speed and it didn’t take them long, some of these kids that are coming in late; they’re doing fine and Schwartz is as good or better than a lot of those guys.”

So far, Schwartz’s best information has come from observing.

"I’m watching the veterans, how they play and how they handle themselves,” Schwartz said.  “You learn a lot from watching.”

Just now, that’s about the only way the young prospect is learning, since his teammates, like his coach, are keeping mum.
 
“Any advice would just clog things up,” 17-year veteran Jamie Langenbrunner said. “He’s going to be nervous, for sure, playing in his first NHL game. We all remember our first NHL game. The key is to let him have some fun with it. You only play your first game once.”
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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 2:00 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wounded Lightning brace for League-best Blues

TAMPA -- If the St. Louis Blues hope to avoid matching a season-high with three consecutive losses, they’ve likely come to the right place.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, their opponent Saturday night, are reeling toward the season’s finish line, an unrelenting string of injuries compounding their slide.

The latest to join the walking wounded is Nate Thompson, out Saturday with an undisclosed upper-body injury and likely to miss a few games. He joins five other regulars in the training room, a significant figure although at one point during the season Tampa Bay had nine regulars on the injured list.

“Injuries are part of the game, “Lightning coach Guy Boucher said, “but this year, that’s not part of the game. These are circumstances we’ll probably never see again. I’ve never seen it and probably never will again. It’s made for a long season.”

After an 18 save relief appearance against Toronto on Thursday night, Dwayne Roloson will get the call in the Lightning net, his first start since Feb 25 against Pittsburgh.

The season could seem even longer after the contest Saturday is finished, with St. Louis cruising along atop the League standings, three points ahead of the New York Rangers. And as befits a team with such a lofty status, not much is concerning them.

“We’re a high-wire act,” St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.  “We’re a junior hockey team or a college team that happens to play professional hockey, that’s what it is. That’s the best way to describe it. We have fun, it’s loose. There is enough time for pressure once the game starts but we try to keep it as loose and active as we can until the game is ready to be played and then we dial it up. For an old guy like me it’s a little bit of chaos that I’m not used to but every day I come here I keep thinking that this is junior hockey again. That’s the way we deal with things; we do a lot of things that are silly and humorous, whether it’s the video or the meetings, we try to lighten the load.”

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Chris Porter - Vladimir Sobotka - Chris Stewart
Patrik Berglund - Jamie Langenbruner - Jaden Schwartz
Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves - B.J. Crombeen

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Alex Pietrangelo - Carlo Colaiacovo
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Adam Hall - Ryan Shannon
Tim Wallace - Tom Pyatt - JT Wyman
Brandon Segal - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Mike Commodore
Brendan Mikkelson - Brian Lee
Keith Aulie

Dwayne Roloson
Dustin Tokarski
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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs well aware of danger Stamkos presents

TAMPA -- Talk about timing.

One day after Steven Stamkos notched his 50th goal, the Toronto Maple Leafs arrive to play the Lightning Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Naturally, Ontario native Stamkos' achievement is the center of attention.

"Special players, you have to pay special attention to," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "You have to recognize when he's on the ice. He has some tendencies on where he likes to go on the ice, but he can make something out of nothing.

"He's very, very confident in what he does out there on the ice. I think he's become an elite athlete. From where he was as an 18-year old draftee to where he is now, how much time and work and effort he's put in personally and the skill-set that he possesses, is all part of him accepting responsibility and developing himself into an elite-level NHL hockey player. You have to give him all the credit in the world because of the approach he has taken and maintains."

For Stamkos, it's more than just scoring goals now, it's about leadership.

"This year we have gone through a lot of adversity, so it was kind of a goal of mine to become more of a leader, whether on the ice or through actions," Stamkos said. "It's a time where I've been here four years now and I've earned trust and respect. It's a great feeling knowing you're part of the leadership group on this team, and I just want to keep learning and helping this team win."

Lightning coach Guy Boucher also praised the 22-year old for his developing leadership skills.

"I've always seen his potential," Boucher said. "He's an extremely respectful individual when it comes to everything, but mainly leadership. His leadership really revolves around how he inspires people around him; his charging, driving attitude, his enthusiasm for the game and wanting to be the guy in the big moments, that's very contagious.

"The mark of every great athlete is to adapt, and that's what he has. His attitude, his work ethic and his discipline have made his actions successful almost every night, and that's impressive for a youngster his age."

Toronto arrives in Tampa carrying plenty of recent adversity. It has been a tough stretch for the Maple Leafs, who are making the third stop on what will ultimately be a five-game road swing, during which they are still seeking their first point. They are 0-4-1 in their last five, 1-4-1 since Carlyle took over the reins on March 2, and are on the verge of becoming the only franchise in hockey to miss the playoffs every year since the lockout if they miss out and the Panthers get in.

"Our job as a coaching staff right now is to get this hockey club in the right frame of mind and win some games to get ourselves feeling better about ourselves," Carlyle said. "It's as simple as that. Right now we're not an emotionally 'up' group. Hopefully, they can bring an effort tonight that is worthy of getting us a couple of points."

Carlyle made the point that reports he ripped his club post-game after Tuesday night's loss to the Panthers are inaccurate.

"I didn't rip the team at all," Carlyle said. "I talked about self-destruction and how we could improve; there was no rant, it was just like I'm talking now, it was matter-of-fact. This is what I felt, this is what had transpired out there, and we are held accountable and responsible for those actions."

The Maple Leafs got some additional bad news as Nikolai Kulemin is out with a broken finger, sustained during the 5-2 loss to Florida.

"It seems like the longer we go on this road trip, there always seems to be subtraction taking place," Carlyle said.

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game:

MAPLE LEAFS
Clarke MacArthur - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Tim Connolly - David Steckel - Mikhail Grabovski
Carter Ashton - Matt Frattin - Joey Crabb
Colby Armstrong - Matthew Lombardi - Jay Rosehill

Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson
Luke Schenn - Jake Gardiner
Mike Komisarek - John-Michael Liles

Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Adam Hall - Nate Thompson
JT Wyman - Tom Pyatt - Tim Wallace
Brett Connolly - Ryan Shannon

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Mike Commodore
Brendan Mikkelson - Brian Lee
Keith Aulie


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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Turco makes first Bruins start in visit to Lightning

TAMPA -- With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the Tampa Bay Lightning hope the Boston Bruins haven't brought along the scissors.

The Lightning face off Tuesday night against Boston at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the second game in a crucial seven-game homestand. Tampa Bay, 0-2-1 over their its three and seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, may finally see the writing on the wall.

"We are trying to groom our players, not just for this year but for the next few years," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "Look at the last two games, like in Washington where we lost in overtime, we were short-staffed and we had a kid from the AHL in net (Dustin Tokarski) and our players basically shut down the opponent for two periods. We gave them almost nothing.

"Same thing here last game against Carolina, same thing, giving very little to the opponent. That tells me there is a real dedication to improving and getting better in all aspects of the game. It's a very honest approach by our players towards not just hard work but attention to details and it has to stay this way."

Until the mathematics completely turn against the Lightning, Boucher will continue to urge his troops to battle, but he also knows he can't keep throwing his top line on the ice for 27 minutes, which is what Steven Stamkos played last game against Carolina, or 29 minutes, which was Martin St. Louis' ice time for that same game.

"We have to score more goals, and yes, we've got some guys who are not here offensively, but some other guys have stepped up and scored some goals lately," Boucher said. "We've been playing Marty St. Louis and Stamkos too much, but we had to. We can't keep this up until the end of the year. They can't play that many minutes. I have to rely on some other guys. Our top line has been asked to do a lot, and they've been on the ice a lot. Obviously, they are out of gas by the end of the game. I have to manage it in such a way that they do have enough gas to play 60 minutes.

"There is a delicate balance. We have to play them a lot but there is a point where I can't go overboard. In Carolina, on the power play, they stayed on the ice for the full two minutes. Usually after a minute I'm screaming at them to get off but I didn't, because we had no choice."

This will be the third of four meetings between the Lightning and the Bruins this season. The home team has won each of the last two games, and Tampa Bay's win on Jan. 17 proved to be a turnaround game for the club. The 4-1 victory halted a seven-game losing streak and began the five-game winning streak that propelled the Lightning back into playoff contention.

Boston is playing game two tonight of a stretch in which they play six of seven games on the road. The Bruins are 2-2-0 in their last four games and their power play has struggled of late, going 1 for 22 over their last eight games.

Marty Turco gets the call in net for the Bruins, his first start since rejoining the NHL on March 5. He relieved Tim Thomas for two periods on Sunday against Pittsburgh, allowing 2 goals while facing 22 shots.
                                                                                                                                                           
Here's how the lineups project for tonight's game:

BRUINS

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston
Lane MacDermid - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Marty Turco
Tim Thomas

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Adam Hall - Nate Thompson
Ryan Shannon - JT Wyman

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Mike Commodore
Brendan Mikkelson - Brian Lee
Keith Aulie

Dustin Tokarski
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 2:00 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning's Connolly OK, moving on after hit

TAMPA -- Two days after taking a hit to the head that resulted in a three-game suspension for Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connolly showed no ill effects and bore no ill will.

“Obviously it wasn’t the best of hits and the League did what it needed to,” Connolly said. “They are cracking down on those hits. It’s a fine line. You want to finish your checks but at the same time you know that they are watching and you have to be careful with where your hands and elbows are. You have to be cautious with the person you’re hitting. Players are getting better with it but it’s a tough play. That was a hockey play that maybe went over the line a little bit.”

The hit occurred at the 11:03 mark of the second period during the Thursday night game between The Capitals and the Lightning, won by the Capitals 3-2 in overtime. Green hit Connolly when he was already engaged by Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

“I don’t think I feel any different about Green,” Connolly said. “For the most part, he’s a clean player. The game is so fast that sometimes you make a split second decision and it costs you a few games. It looks bad and the League did something about it."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning ready for critical homestand

TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Lightning opens a season-long seven game homestand Saturday night which could make or break their season.

The Lightning, who play host to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, have closed the gap to three points between themselves and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Home has been good to Tampa Bay all season; they have compiled a 20-10-2 record on their home ice, and the players know the weight of these next seven.

“We’ve pointed to this homestand for quite a while,” Marin St. Louis said.  “We know what it means and what we have to do. I think the guys in this room are ready.”

Lightning coach Guy Boucher, however, wanted to down-play the importance.

“There’s no added pressure because we’ve been saying that since Christmas,” Boucher said.  “This game, that game, this homestand -- we played against the top team, the lowest team. There’s always a reason why that game is so important. Tonight it’s one game and, yes, it is a homestand, but we can’t think of the homestand. That’s seven games. That’s a lot of games. That’s two weeks; a lot of things will be done in those two weeks. Tonight, the first ten minutes against Carolina will be our focus. That’s how we’ve been going at it.”

And clearly they have gotten results with their one-game-at-a time viewpoint.

“We used to be, a month ago, 13 points behind Florida for the lead in the Southeast Division at one point; nine points behind Washington for the final playoff spot,” Boucher said. “We’ve caught up a lot but we’ve caught up a lot because we didn’t focus on those things; we didn’t focus on the standings and on intangible things that we don’t control. We focused on what we need to improve. Last game, we were up 2-1 and we weren’t smart in clearing the puck from our zone. That’s what is important. It has nothing to do with Carolina or any other team in front of us. Those are the things that matter to us.”

Dustin Tokarski will make his second start for Tampa Bay after being called up from Norfolk once Mathieu Garon went down with a groin injury.

Tokarski aquitted himself well against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night despite taking the loss 3-2 in overtime.

“You never want to be happy with a loss but I think I made the saves I had,” Tokarski said. “I made a couple of tougher ones and I would have liked to make another big save for the guys and get the win but I thought I stayed fairly calm and played my simple game; compact and no rebounds.”

Carolina trails the Lightning by four points and has hit a rough patch in their attempt to climb back into the postseason hunt, winning only two of their last seven games. They are in the middle of an extended road trip and have not fared very well on the road this season, going 8-14-9.

This meeting concludes the series between these two clubs, with Tampa Bay having won three of the previous five matchups.

Here are the projected lineups:

HURRICANES

Anthony Stewart - Eric Staal - Jiri Tlusty
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Chad LaRose
Patrick Dwyer - Brandon Sutter - Andreas Nodl
Derek Joslin - Tim Brent - Jerome Samson

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson - Adam Hall
JT Wyman - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Ryan Shannon - Tim Wallace - Brandon Segal

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Brian Lee
Mike Commodore - Brendan Mikkelson

Dustin Tokarski
Dwayne Roloson




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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:35 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bolts could get Hedman back for 'must-win' vs. Sens

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Ottawa Senators tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and for the Lightning, much more than just their four game home win-streak is on the line.

"Every game now is a 'must-win.' Yeah, they are," Tampa Bay goalie Mathieu Garon said. "This team (Ottawa) is sitting ahead of us and the next game, too (against Washington on Thursday). They are all really important, and it’s going to be that way until the end of the year."

With the Lightning sitting just four points out of the final playoff position, each remaining game takes on an increased level of urgency, and Tuesday's opponent makes the task that much more difficult.

"They have our number and always find a way to get us," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "It's been real tough to play against them."

Tuesday's game is the fourth and final meeting between the Lightning and the Senators this season, and Ottawa has won all three previous games, holding Tampa Bay to only three goals total.

"Every game is a new game, and every game you try to bring something new," Boucher said. "We do adjustments during the periods and between periods. There has to be and there will be."

The report on the injury front for Tampa Bay was mixed. The Lightning have been without captain Vincent Lecavalier, sidelined with a fractured hand for the last seven games, and Victor Hedman, out with an upper-body injury for the previous four. It appeared likely that at least one of the pair would return Tuesday.

"Hedman? I hope he plays," Boucher said. "We're waiting for the OK from the doctor. But he feels great and he's ready to go."

Hedman said that he was anxious to get back on the ice, but he sounded a cautious note.

"We'll see. We're 99.9 percent certain, but there is still a chance I might not play. We'll see after this afternoon," he said. "I'm excited to play, but still, we have to make sure that I'm really 100 percent before I play. These are important games and you can't be halfway. I feel 100 percent, but we'll see after this afternoon."

The news for Lecavalier was not as optimistic.

"Vinny is not ready yet at all," Boucher said. "When? I couldn't say, to be honest with you. As much as I would love to spend time waiting for Vinny, I think right now we have to focus on the players who are here and the ones who have come up from the AHL to help us."

Also out with an upper-body injury is defenseman Bruno Gervais.

The Senators have enjoyed a six-game winning streak and another run of nine games without a regulation loss during the season, but they arrive in Tampa with back-to-back losses.

Ben Bishop, just recalled from Ottawa's AHL affiliate in Binghampton, will make his debut in the net for the Senators. Bishop was obtained for a second-round pick in the 2013 draft in a trade deadline deal with the St. Louis Blues.

"I'm excited," Bishop said. "It's nice to meet everyone, but I have to get down to business in a couple of hours. If someone tells you that they are not nervous in this situation, they'd be lying to you. But once the puck drops, I'll be fine."

Tuesday's morning skate was the first time Ottawa coach Paul MacLean got a live look at his new goaltender.

"He's a big guy," MacLean said of the 6-foot-7 netminder. "He's got good hands and covers lots of the net. We're looking forward to having him play and seeing what he can do."

Erik Karlsson reacted to his $2,500 fine for his hit on Sean Bergenheim during Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.

"It is what it is," Karlsson said. "I can't change it right now. It was a bad play by me."

Karlsson said he spoke with Brendan Shanahan, NHL Senior VP for Player Safety, about the fine.

"I told him I understood," Karlsson said.

Here's how tonight's lineups project:

SENATORS
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Colin Greening
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Rob Klinkhammer - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Erik Condra - Kaspars Daugavins - Jim O'Brien

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Ben Bishop
Alex Auld

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson - JT Wyman
Tom Pyatt - Adam Hall - Brett Connolly
Ryan Shannon - Tim Wallace

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brian Lee - Mike Commodore
Brendan Mikkelson - Brett Clark
Keith Aulie

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson

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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 4:07 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lundqvist back in net for Rangers

TAMPA, Fla. -- The New York Rangers arrived here with a nine-point lead in the Eastern Conference standings following their win Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. They enter Friday's game with three consecutive wins and the second-best road record (20-8-4) in the NHL.

The Rangers start Henrik Lundqvist to start in net Friday after Martin Biron started Thursday's game. Lundqvist leads the League in save percentage (.940) and shutouts (eight).

"We don't have a top-10 scorer or a team that can strike fast," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "So we rely on our goaltender. Lundqvist has been the best in the NHL this season."

Richards, a key member of the Lightning's Stanley-Cup winning 2004 club who also has played for the Dallas Stars, said he's noticed a different playing for an Original Six team.

"We see (Rangers) fans everywhere we play," Richards said. "There are more rivalries involved."

Richards has been riding the subway to home games since he did so Feb. 9, and then scored the overtime goal in a 4-3 win against the Lightning.

"It's 14 minutes from my apartment to (Madison Square) Garden," Richards said. "One stop."

Unlike the Lightning, the Rangers are assured a spot in the post-season, but don't ask any of them to look ahead. That's against the rules as long as John Tortorella is in charge.

"We're not allowed to talk about the playoffs," Richards said. "We keep it in the present."

We had the Lightning lineup earlier; here is what the Rangers' likely will put on the ice tonight:

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ruslan Fedotenko
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
John Scott - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal, with Martin Biron the backup.
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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 2:27 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Purcell turning in top-line performance

TAMPA, Fla. -- Playing on the first-line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell is riding a career-best seven-game point-scoring streak. In four games last week, Purcell had 3 goals and 7 assists.

"Purcell has been terrific for the last 20 games, so I'm sure he wants to keep it going," said Lightning coach Guy Boucher. "He's reached the level of play we were hoping we would get from him at the beginning of the year, because of how he ended last year in the playoffs. For some reason he didn't start so well and it took until Christmas to see the best of him. I don't want it to end."

Purcell was a surprise standout for the Lightning in the playoffs last season with 17 points in 18 games. His 17 goals in 62 games this season match the career-best total he had in 82 games last season.
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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 2:24 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Latest Lightning challenge -- East-best Rangers

TAMPA, Fla. -- Six points out of a playoff spot with 19 games remaining, the Tampa Bay Lightning have battled a variety of plagues as they try to stay in the race.

There have been injuries to mainstays like Vincent Lecavalier, Victor Hedman and Marc-Andre Bergeron; trades with took three popular players out of the locker room; and most recently a flu bug which forced the team to use six AHL call-ups for Tuesday's game against Montreal. However, through all that, the Lightning have won five of their last seven games, including four straight at home.

Their next challenge arrives Friday as the New York Rangers visit the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the fourth and final meeting this season (7:30 p.m., NHLN-US).

While the Rangers provide one type of challenge, it appears another one seems to have moved on.

"I think everyone is healthy," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said regarding the flu virus. "I'm afraid to say for certain because there is still half-a-day left until we play."

Keith Aulie, acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline, will make his Lightning debut Friday. He was one of three blueliners -- along with Mike Commodore and Brian Lee -- the team acquired Monday. Commodore and Lee made their debuts with the team in Tuesday's win against Montreal.

"I thought Commodore and Lee played great last game," Boucher said. "Lee had a few solid body checks; Commodore, too. That was really welcome. We have been a smaller, skill-type of defensive team concerning our defensive corps, and it was good to see size and aggressiveness. They are welcome on our team; they are really good additions."

Here's what the rest of the Lightning lineup could look like tonight:

Teddy Purcell - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Ryan Malone - Adam Hall - Tim Wallace
Tom Pyatt - Nate Thompson - JT Wyman
Brandon Segal - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Brett Clark
Mike Commodore - Brian Lee
Bruno Gervais - Brendan Mikkelson
Keith Aulie

Mathieu Garon will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson the backup.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 2:09 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potenial lineups for Canadiens, Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- Here are the lineups the Canadiens and Lightning could use when the teams take the ice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum tonight.

A stomach virus and a slew of roster changes has Lightning coach Guy  Boucher unsure of what his lineups could look like.

"I don't know who's going to play tonight," Boucher said. "We'll just see what we put on the ice."

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Blake Geoffrion - Tomas Plekanec - Ryan White
Rene Bourque - Lars Eller - Ryan White
Petteri Nokelainen - Scott Gomez - Brad Staubitz

Josh Georges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli

Carey Price will start in goal, with Peter Budaj the backup.

LIGHTNING
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
JT Wyman - Adam Hall - Tom Pyatt
Mike Angelidis - Brett Connolly - Tim Wallace
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Brandon Segal - Trevor Smith

Eric Brewer - Brett Clark
Mike Commodore - Brian Lee
Evan Oberg - Bruno Gervais

Mathieu Garon will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson the backup.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:34 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Boucher unsure what kind of team he'll have tonight

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher surveyed the locker room after Tuesday's morning skate, he saw an unusual collection of players. There was Mike Commodore and Brian Lee, two defensemen obtained Monday at the trade deadline; Tim Wallace, claimed on waivers Feb 23; and three call-ups from AHL Norfolk -- Brandon Segal, Mike Angelidis and Trevor Smith. Not yet present, but en route from Norfolk, was Evan Oberg.

Missing were Vincent Lecavalier, who will miss his fifth consecutive game Tuesday with a fractured hand; Ryan Shannon and Victor Hedman, both sidelined with upper-body injuries; and Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson and Brendan Mikkelson, all ill with a stomach virus. The virus also hit assistant coach Marty Raymond, who was sent home from practice.

"I've never seen anything like it," Boucher said.

The Lightning open a two-game homestand Tuesday when they host the Montreal Canadiens at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Hanging on to their playoff hopes just six points out of the final post-season spot, Boucher will send out a mixed bag of players, some of whom he knows and some of whom he never has seen on the ice before.

"I don't know who's going to play tonight," Boucher said. "We'll just see what we put on the ice."

On the ice for certain will be two of the three defensemen acquired Monday. Keith Aulie, obtained from the Toronto Maple Leafs, is awaiting a visa, but Commodore and Lee were given a crash course on the Lightning game plan before the morning skate.

"We went over a lot of information; a lot to digest this morning," Lee said. "I'll try to pick it all up this afternoon and then come back and be ready for the game. There are different systems and ideologies here, but at the end of the day, it's still hockey."

Commodore, joining his seventh NHL team in 11 seasons, will be ready to go, but admitted he didn't get much rest Monday.

"I couldn't sleep, so I got to bed around 3 a.m. I was in Tampa by 11 p.m. but I couldn't fall asleep," Commodore said. "A lot happened yesterday. I had a couple of hours to get things packed and catch a flight. Hopefully, I'll get a nap today and be ready to go.

"We had a meeting and the coach went over some stuff, just keeping it simple. From what I've taken from everything this morning, from the coaches to the new gear to not playing in a month, I'm just going to keep it real simple tonight. That will be the number-one thing that I do."

Boucher planned to play his newcomers in tandem on the ice Tuesday.

"We'll play Commodore and Lee together," Boucher said, "since they both won't know what's happening. We'll try to help them both at the same time."

Commodore said the pairing will be "a work in progress."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:09 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Life without Lecavalier latest challenge for Lightning

TAMPA -- The loss of captain Vincent Lecavalier from the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup is just another blow the team must try to overcome in fighting to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We've been getting slapped all year, so why change it now?" Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "It's not for the next two or three days, it's more than that. He's out indefinitely because we can’t put a date on when he’ll be back, but it certainly won't be tomorrow."

The Lightning captain sustained an upper-body injury during Tampa Bay's win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, and was unable to practice on Monday. Tests left no doubt as to the severity of the injury.

"There is no gray area," Lecavalier said. "Obviously when I come back is kind of a gray area, but the tests showed definitely that there are no gray areas."

For the Lightning, the timing couldn't be worse. The team wraps up a homestand Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks during which they made strides to close the gap to qualify for postseason play. Tampa Bay has gone 9-3-2 over the last 14-game stretch and is currently just six points out of the final playoff spot. That’s as close as the Lightning have been to a playoff spot since Dec. 31.

The Lightning have been plagued by injuries all season, at one point playing a month without nine of their regulars. But through the team's resurgence and playoff push, their big three of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Lecavalier have been a constant presence.

Now, that's changed.

"Obviously, the biggest thing is that we're playing really well as a team right now and everyone has stepped up his game in this last month," Lecavalier said. "Obviously the beginning of the season wasn't what we wanted, but we've really pulled together, it seems, since January. That's the part of the year that you want to be part of something and there with the guys; every single game is a playoff game so you want to be part of that. Unfortunately, I won't be able to."

The Ducks are an equally hungry opponent who are on the periphery of the Western Conference playoff picture, but they have been making some strong advances of late.

"They did the same thing last year," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They're good players and they realized the situation and rallied."

Anaheim arrives at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with a 15-2-4 record in the past 21 games and has climbed to within five points of a playoff berth. The Ducks are on the tail end of an eight-game road trip, their longest of the season, during which they have managed to snag at least a point in each game. Tuesday night they will be after their first 10-game point streak since 2007. If they get it, the points will come at the expense of a Tampa Bay club that is scrambling.

"Our lines will change; our lineup is thinner so the danger, obviously, is that the other team wears you out, so we'll have to manage our top guys and the third and fourth lines so that we have energy but don't get worn out come the third period," Boucher said. "Stamkos and St. Louis are going to sleep on the ice, that's obvious, but we'll try to manage it so that they can maintain 60 minutes of solid play."

Here's how the lineups project for tonight's game:

DUCKS
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - George Parros

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers

LIGHTNING

Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Nate Thompson - Adam Hall - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon

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Posted On Saturday, 02.18.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps, Lighting face critical contest

The Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning meet for the fourth time this season Saturday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Both clubs are on the outside looking in at the post-season though the Capitals, coming off a 2-1  win over the Florida Panthers on Friday night, have the better prospects sitting just one point out of the final playoff spot.

For the Lightning, it’s another “do or die” game, as they continue their four-game homestand after an overtime win Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks. They are currently eight points from the playoff picture, and in the middle of what appears to be a look toward the future from management.
 
On Thursday morning, Pavel Kubina was removed from the lineup pending a trade, and just minutes before the faceoff against San Jose, Dominic Moore was sent to the Sharks in exchange for a second-round draft pick.

Despite the changes, Lightning coach Guy Boucher is determined to push those distractions aside.

“Instead of taking me five minutes to refocus, it takes 10,” Boucher said. “The reality is that when trades happen guys come in and out, the focus has to be on how will we replace that guy, not on how the situation will hurt for the next few days.

“Kubina is not here now; Moore is not here, so the focus is, who is going to take care of that spot? So, we have to act fast and make sure that person understands the job. The more we cry about whatever, the more we get away from our job, which is to teach.”

One subject Boucher will be teaching about is how to stop Troy Brouwer, who has scorched the Lightning for five goals in their last three meetings.

Troy Brouwer, yeah – there are a lot of guys we have to watch out for on that team,” Boucher said.

Washington coach Dale Hunter will make sure Tampa Bay sees plenty of Brouwer tonight.

“Everybody gets a hot hand against some team,” Hunter said. “Troy gets enough time as it is, but he might have to get an extra shift or two.”

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Jay Beagle - Brooks Laich - Mike Knuble
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Dmitry Orlov

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth

LIGHTNING

Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson - JT Wyman
Ryan Shannon - Adam Hall - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 1:46 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning prepare for Sharks without Kubina

TAMPA – What’s 847 days between friends?

That’s how long it has been since the San Jose Sharks visited Tampa Bay, and no team in the NHL has currently gone longer. But that number resets after Thursday night when the Sharks face the Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

As if to make up for lost time, San Jose arrived in Tampa on Monday and has had several days to adjust to the weather, and although the Sharks are in game two of a season-long eight-game road trip, the outlook looks much stormier for Tampa Bay.

“Let’s say it like it is: last year and this year we looked like pee-wees against them,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.

The Sharks defeated the Lightning earlier this season in San Jose 7-2.

“They have been very good on the power play so we have to stay out of the box for sure,” Boucher said. “We’ve got to keep it tight; obviously, if it’s one goal, it’s one goal, but we don’t want to catch up on two or three goals against these guys, that’s for sure. That would be very difficult.”

The Lightning are preparing to play without defenseman Pavel Kubina, who is being kept off the ice pending the completion of a trade, general manager Steve Yzerman announced Thursday.

“Every day is tough; days like this are tougher,” Boucher said.  “Obviously, Kubina is a good man, a good person, and he’s played hard for us.

“People talk about a business but for me it’s never about a business, it’s about winning and players on the ice and building players off the ice. (Kubina) has done a good job with us. I don’t know who or what as to where he’s going but I do feel for him because I do care about our players. But at the same time, if he does go to a Stanley Cup contender, I think it’s a good opportunity for him. But I have no clue – none – as to decisions and directions. That’s all that I have to say on the record for that.”

Tampa Bay is fighting for its playoff lives, but the decision to move Kubina could signal the opening salvo in a wholesale sell-off as the team re-tools for the future.

Yzerman said that is not necessarily the case.

 “This doesn’t make it official that, ‘Hey, the sale is on,’ by any means,” Yzerman said. “We’re not just going to give people away, but if there are deals that make sense that whatever we are bringing in in return make us a better organization, we’re going to do that, but we won’t just unload guys for the sake of unloading.

“We’re making our decisions on a player-by-player basis, or an opportunity-by-opportunity basis and we see potential opportunity to improve our club. The broader strategy is that we want to be a better team in the future and we’ll look at any opportunity that will make us a better team in the future. That is our strategy. We want to be a Cup contender at some point and we’re going to have to do some things to become that.”
                                       
The Lightning face a legitimate Cup contender in the Sharks, currently in third place in the Western Conference, although they are facing a difficult stretch in their schedule which will see the team on the road for 12 of their next 16 games.

“It’s only getter tougher,” Dan Boyle said. “But, we are where we want to be right now.”

Here are the projected lineups for the Sharks and Lightning:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton -Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - John McCarthy

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

LIGHTNING

Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Brett Connolly
Adam Hall - Nate Thompson - JT Wyman

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais
    
Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon








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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:38 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Opportunity knocks for Lightning to gain ground

TAMPA -- From their precarious perch, the Tampa Bay Lightning can see everything. Ahead of them are five teams that they have to maneuver past in order to make the postseason; behind them is one team and one point separating them from the Eastern Conference basement.

That delicate balance makes every game crucial.

Tuesday night the Lightning open a four-game homestand against the Ottawa Senators, one of the clubs they must leapfrog in order to make the playoffs.

And although there is an eight-point hill to climb to reach the final playoff spot, the fates are aligning to give the Lightning every opportunity to get there.

They have six of their next nine games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where they are 15-8-2, and Ryan Malone, an important part of their power play, returns to the lineup Tuesday after an absence of eight games with an upper-body injury.

The return of Malone can only be welcome news for a Lightning power play that is 29th in the League with a 13.5 success percentage and has scored just twice in their last 29 attempts, which includes an empty-netter.

"He (Malone) is our best guy down low, so we're going to have to make room for him on the power play," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.

After Sunday's 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh, the second half in a back-to-back series, Boucher was critical of the play of his team, which had jumped out to a first period two-goal lead. On reflection, Boucher now takes a different view of the loss.

"After the first period, we should have been expecting them coming out real strong, and they did, and we stayed at the same level," Boucher said. "We don't cut any slack, but we certainly can explain it. Our guys had nothing left in the second and the third. We could have played it differently; we stayed very aggressive and we didn't have the juice to do that.

"We knew we had to change the game plan around, but we didn't change it and it cost us. Next time around, we'll be able to manage it better."

Another point seemingly in the Lightning's favor is that the Senators arrive after going 1-6-2 in their last nine games, but Jason Spezza suggested that the worst was over.

"We picked up three of our last four points," Spezza said. "We struggled for five or six games before that, but in a snapshot of our last three games, we're playing better.

"The games become very important now because every team is desperate to pick up points. We'll face a desperate team every night, and no one can really feel safe."

Certainly the Lightning understand the critical situation they face.

"This is a huge homestand for us," Pavel Kubina said. "We're eight points out of the playoffs with a game in hand. We don't give up; we'll go to the end and see what will happen, but we're capable of making it, for sure."

Dominic Moore put it this way: "When there are points on the table, they need to be ours."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:34 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators, Lightning

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Ottawa Senators visit the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

SENATORS
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Jared Cowen - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

LIGHTNING

Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Nate Thompson
JT Wyman - Adam Hall - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:14 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning recall Oberg as insurance

TAMPA -- In what qualifies as somewhat of a mystery move, the Tampa Bay Lightning recalled defenseman Evan Oberg from Norfolk (American Hockey League) on Tuesday.

This is Oberg’s eighth recall with the Lightning since he was acquired from Florida on Dec. 2. He has appeared in one game, logging 1:21 of ice time.

But what makes the call-up unusual this time is the timing and circumstances. Previously, Oberg arrived when Tampa Bay faced multiple injuries, including injuries to Victor Hedman and Marc-Andre Bergeron.

Currently, the Lightning defensive corps is as healthy as it has been all season, with Hedman returning to the lineup and Marc-Andre Bergeron set to return at any time.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher prefers to dress seven defensemen as a rule, but with Bergeron back, the team will be carrying nine players on the blueline, scratching two each game.

The addition of Oberg to the roster has lead to some speculation about a pending trade, something Boucher was quick to dismiss at his conference after the morning skate Tuesday.

“There are no trades or anything to speculate on,” Boucher said. “We don’t say everything and obviously some of our defensemen have little ‘boo-boos’ that we’re not sure about, so it’s just a precaution thing.

“If something happens, it will be something out of the blue. There is nothing hidden. It’s just the fact that we have some players that are practicing and playing but we just want to make sure. If I were 100-percent sure of Bergeron returning today we wouldn’t need to take that precaution, but right now there are things that I can’t talk about that we’re taking precautions on. Nothing gigantic.”

Later, Boucher indicated that Bergeron appeared ready to play on Tuesday night against the L.A.Kings.

“Bergeron, our top-scoring defenseman, might be back tonight,” Boucher said, “so that might be interesting too.”
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Kings vs. Lightning

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will wrap up their homestand Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Kings make a rare visit to the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Kings have not played in Tampa since Nov. 14, 2009. Only San Jose has currently gone longer without visiting Tampa Bay. The Kings are in the middle of a season-long six-game cross-country road trip which has not begun well. L.A. has dropped their past two decisions, losing 1-0 in St. Louis and 2-1 against Carolina on Saturday night.

Tuesday night, the Lightning complete a stretch that had them at home -- where they are 15-7-2 -- for seven of their past nine games. They arrived limping, in the throes of a season-long seven game losing streak, but have turned that around and have captured 13 of a possible 14 points since. The run has put Tampa Bay back in the Stanley Cup Playoff hunt, currently 10 points out of the final post-season spot.

For Lightning coach Guy Boucher, it’s a matter of the team jelling at the right time.

“To see the effort from the players at all positions means there is a team chemistry; a team vision and cohesion,” Boucher said. “That’s what you’re after the entire year. Sometimes it takes more time than others but that’s what we have right now.”

But why did it take the Lightning 51 games to reach this point? Boucher points to several factors, but mostly attributes misplaced expectations and loss of focus as the culprits.

“The reality is, it often happens that a player that has some success the previous year comes in thinking they’ll take their game to a way other level,” Boucher said. “The expectations are not in the right place. It took a long time for us as individuals and a team to get the right expectations. That, and the injuries and away games early in the season. But to battle through that and get to where we are now was the whole point. It just took time.”

Dwayne Roloson gets the nod and will start Tuesday night for Tampa Bay. It will be Roloson’s first start since the All-Star break, when he made 33 saves to beat Phoenix Jan 21. Mathieu Garon has started the past four games.

“I knew I wanted to get Roli in soon enough after the break,” Boucher said. “He played well last game he played so I wanted to find a way to get him back in, but at the same time, Garon was doing well.”

The prospect of facing L.A.’s goaltender Jonathan Quick and his 22 wins and 1.91 goals against average is no concern to Boucher at all.

“Pavelec, Tim Thomas, we’ve been meeting them all;” Boucher said. “One great goalie or another great goalie, to me, it’s the same approach.”

Steven Stamkos, the NHL’s leading goal scorer, echoed Boucher’s thoughts about facing Quick.

“We don’t get to see Quick that often, but we pretty much have the same plan against any goalie; the basics,” Stamkos said. “Try to get traffic in front and put lots of pucks on the net and hope for the best.”

The “best” would be heading out on the road with another win, but Stamkos, who turned 22 Tuesday and was drenched in shaving cream in an on-ice celebration, knows that won’t come easily.

“These guys are a very good defensive team,” Stamkos said. “They play a lot of low-scoring games. They’re physical and they’re fast, so we have to play our best defensive game today because these guys don’t give up a lot and they can capitalize on chances. We know the importance of this one.”


KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Kyle Clifford - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Jack Johnson
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

LIGHTNING

Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Martin St. Louis - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon - Dominic Moore - Nate Thompson
JT Wyman - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais
Matt Gilroy

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon
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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 1:41 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers, looking for third straight win, face Lightning

TAMPA - The Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers visit the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night to complete their six-game season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning hold the edge, three wins to two, but the Panthers, with the chance of post-season play after 10 seasons, have come out of the All-Star break with two wins and can equal a season-high three-game win streak with a victory against the Lightning.

Tampa Bay, nine points from a playoff berth, will look to close that gap after having a season-long five-game winning streak halted Thursday when the Winnipeg Jets beat them in overtime, 2-1.

Just prior to the start of that game, rookie Brett Connolly was informed that he would be scratched. Connolly, Tampa Bay’s first-round draft pick in 2010, made the roster out of training camp and began the season with lots of fanfare.  Initially, Connolly made that decision look like a good one as he collected four goals and two assists in his first 18 games, including back-to-back goals Nov. 1 against Carolina and Nov. 4 against Chicago while routinely logging 15 minutes or more of ice time.

Connolly missed 11 NHL games while playing with Team Canada in the World Juniors and scored five goals and six points en route to a bronze medal, but since his return on Jan. 7, he hasn’t had a point in 10 games and has seen his time-on-ice shrink to less than eight minutes per game.

“I found out (about being scratched) right after warm-ups,” Connolly said. “It’s the first time ever in my life anywhere that I’ve been scratched. It’s a learning experience.”

And a learning experience that Connolly has apparently taken to heart.

“I have to work even harder now and make it tough for them to take me out of the lineup,” he said. “I want to push the older guys and I’ve got to be better every day.”

Connolly cited his defensive lapses as the main reason he sat out, but Lightning coach Guy Boucher, who started 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Jets, then took a different approach to sitting Connolly.

“One, he was expecting it,” Boucher said, “and, two, he understands it. What effect will this have on his confidence? Well, look at Stamkos who lived the same thing as a rookie and is looking pretty good. These are moments that they have as a 19-year-old that they have to go through and learn and take a breather sometimes, like last game.

“I told him not to necessarily change his game now, we just needed a bigger body in the line-up, like (Pierre-Cedric) Labrie and (Ryan) Shannon had played well the previous game and I didn’t want to take him out. Sometimes it’s not necessarily about the player himself, it’s the fact that there are other players out there that are doing well.”

Florida arrived in Tampa after defeating Winnipeg 2-1 in Sunrise, Fla., on Friday night and had an optional skate Saturday morning. As a result, more of the players kicked a soccer ball around below the stands than actually took the ice. Scott Clemmensen gets the call in net for Florida, and he will become the first Panther goalie to start on consecutive nights this season.

NOTE: Just prior to the All-Star break, while the Lightning were mired in a seven-game losing streak which threatened to ruin their season, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos asked a long-time Lightning employee, Tom Gilbert, to give then a pep-talk after the morning skate. Gilbert’s words of encouragement had the desired effect, as Tampa Bay put a halt to their skid with a 5-3 win against the Boston Bruins, with Stamkos scoring a goal and St. Louis picking up an assist.

A ritual was born and Gilbert, who collects audio sound bites for the team’s website, was called on to address the entire club after the morning skate during the next two home games, which the Lightning won. Gilbert, who cited Rocky Balboa running down the beach and other inspirational images, also spoke before the Winnipeg game on Thursday, which Tampa lost in overtime.
But when the magic is gone, it’s gone, and Gilbert was nowhere to be seen after Saturday’s morning skate.

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster

LIGHTNING

Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon - Dominic Moore - JT Wyman
Nate Thompson - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Pavel Kubina - Matt Gilroy
Bruno Gervais - Brendan Mikkelson
Matt Gilroy

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 1:06 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Byfuglien returns to lineup as Jets visit Lightning

TAMPA -- Two teams on the outside looking in at the postseason hook up tonight when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Tampa Bay Times at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Jets, heading into a stretch of three road games in four nights amid a season-long six-game road swing got some good news as defenseman Dustin Byfuglien returns to the lineup after missing 16 games with a knee injury.

"Looks like Buf is ready to go," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "That's a welcome addition. He stabilizes the other guys."

The unknown is how much Byfuglien will be able to play, but Noel cautioned about expecting too much.

"In all fairness, he hasn't played for a while so we have to be a little bit patient," Noel said. "He'll have enthusiasm, and most times it goes good for the first game and then drops off later, but we'll monitor his condition level and see where he's at."

Even if Byfuglien's minutes on the ice are minimal, his teammates are glad to see him return.

"He's an important guy on our team," goalie Ondrej Pavelec said. "Lately we've had trouble scoring goals and I'm pretty sure this guy will help us."

Tampa Bay has won seven straight home games against the Thrashers/Jets and is riding a season-long five game winning streak. This is the third meeting between these two teams this season, with Tampa Bay and Winnipeg each winning at home.

"They've got some dangerous players," Noel said. "(Steven) Stamkos alone has 32 goals; that's pretty awesome for one guy to have that many goals. Who are you going to check? Lecavalier and St. Louis or Stamkos and whoever he's with? It should be a really good challenge. It should be a really good game."

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

JETS
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Wellwood - Nik Antropov - Eric Fehr
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Aaron Gagnon - Alexander Burmistrov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason

LIGHTNING
Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Nate Thompson - Dominic Moore - JT Wyman
Ryan Shannon - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Bruno Gervais - Brendan Mikkelson
Victor Hedman

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning get Hedman back to face rival Capitals

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals get back to work Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and the work at hand for both teams is securing a playoff spot.

The Capitals, with 55 points, are tied for the top spot in the Southeast Division, but with several clubs nipping at their heels they are far from a lock for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, is looking up at the pack, currently nine points away from it needs to be to qualify.

"I told the players that we need a rock climber's mentality," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "You don't want to look down and you don't want to look up. Looking up can be discouraging and looking down can be scary, so look at the rocks in front of us and the things in the past don't mean anything. Tonight is all about Washington."

That's more than enough, considering the Capitals are 21-3-1 in their last 25 regular-season meetings with Tampa Bay, including wins in both match-ups this season.

But the Lightning, riding a season-high four-game win streak, have reason for optimism since several of their injured players return to action on Tuesday. Tom Pyatt, Ryan Shannon, JT Wyman and, most importantly, Victor Hedman are expected to play. After missing 13 games with a concussion, Boucher cautioned that Hedman will have to work his way back to the level he played before the injury.

Hedman, however, had some different thoughts.

"It's been a while, but I'm 100 percent now," Hedman said. "I don't know how many minutes I'll get, but I hope it's about 30. I'll take the first shift and go from there. Today's a special day because I'm getting back to the game."

Both teams have had less than overwhelming success on the power play of late, with Washington going 1-for-16 and Tampa Bay chugging along at an anemic 5-for-54 with the extra man.

In the game prior to the All-Star break, Boucher used defensemen Brendan Mikkelson and Bruno Gervais on the point and indicated that he planned to continue that combo on the power play.

"They move quickly and they keep it simple," Boucher said. "They have accurate shots on net. I thought they played well. I liked the fact that Mikkelson is real mobile and he has a terrific shot. Gervais keeps things simple. Since we have injuries, we've been mixing it up. We've been trying everyone, basically, on power plays. We've got to find solutions."

Boucher was amused to see that Steven Stamkos won the All-Star shootout competition, especially in light of the fact that Stamkos has yet to connect on a shootout attempt during Boucher's tenure as the Lightning coach, going 0-for-3 this season and blanking last season.

"I don't know what to think," Boucher said. "He hasn't scored one for us this season yet and then he goes out there and wins the shootout contest. He hasn't scored last year, too. Guess he's putting pressure on me to put him out there. He hasn't scored a shootout goal for me in two seasons. I guess I'm the problem."

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

CAPITALS
Marcus Johansson - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Mike Knuble
Joel Rechlicz - Cody Eakin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - John Carlson
John Erskine - Dmitry Orlov

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Steven Stamkos - Steve Downie
Ryan Shannon - Dominic Moore - JT Wyman
Nate Thompson - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Bruno Gervais - Matt Gilroy
Brendan Mikkelson

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 2:04 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning dealing with litany of injuries

TAMPA, Fla. -- At their practice facility in Brandon, Florida, on Monday, the Tampa Bay Lightning locker room was festooned with red jerseys, which indicate "no contact" for that particular player.

A new red jersey was hung in Ryan Malone's stall, as he and Dana Tyrell joined the roster of walking wounded that now numbers nine players.

Tuesday night the Lightning will face the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and although Tampa Bay is riding a three-game winning streak, the home-ice advantage is of little interest to coach Guy Boucher.

"Right now, it doesn't really matter, home or on the road, it's a question of injuries. Malone and Tyrell are out and half of Norfolk is coming up," Boucher said, in reference to the call-ups from the team's AHL affiliate. "Upper body, lower body, back of the body and top of the head, we've got them all now. To me, it's just a blur right now."

Arriving from Norfolk will be Evan Oberg, who has made the commute numerous times this season but has yet to appear in a game, and Mike Angelides, who will be making his NHL debut.

"Angelides hasn't been up with us yet, so it will be another baptism," Boucher said.

Malone and Tyrell join a list of injured that includes Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Adam Hall, Tom Pyatt, Ryan Shannon and JT Wyman

Filling the gap has been several AHL call-ups, including Brendan Mikkelson, Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Trevor Smith.

"The void is also being filled by our regulars like (Martin) St. Louis and (Vincent) Lecavalier and (Steven) Stamkos," Boucher said. "Those guys are playing a lot and they need to. Nate Thompson is practically sleeping on the ice; his tongue is hanging to the floor. He plays in all situations, offensively and defensively.

"This is the most injuries we've had since I've been here, by far. It's extremely taxing, but this (Columbus) is our last game before the break and hopefully our guys will be back after the break."

Boucher was at a loss as to what to attribute the injury outbreak to.

"All the injuries are different," he said. "If we had the same injuries you could say, maybe its how we practice or how we train, but one is caused by being hit by a shot, another guy ran into the boards, they are all different. Without a tendency it’s hard to figure what to do better or differently."

Ultimately, Boucher attributed the rash of misfortunate to factors beyond his, or anyone's, control.

"The hockey gods are just whipping us left and right," Boucher said. "And we're taking it and fighting it and the players have shown great character of late and shown that they want to survive and that they are doing everything they can to survive."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:35 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hedman skates, closer to rejoining Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, a key missing component on an injury-stressed defense, took part in the morning skate with the team for the first time since being hurt and declared himself close to returning.

Hedman suffered a concussion Dec. 27 against Philadelphia and will miss his 13th consecutive game Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It's just a matter of time until I get back into game-shape," Hedman said. "During the All-Star break I'm not going to lay on the beach or anything like that. I'm going to work hard and get prepared for when the season re-starts."

Sitting out during his recovery has been a chore for Hedman.

"Being off the ice is the worst thing," Hedman said. "Hockey is my life and it's what I do for a living. When you can't do what you want it's tough to be real happy, but I've been trying to keep my mood up as much as I can. I'm on the right track now and things are moving in the right direction."

Hedman said he hoped to be ready to play by Jan. 31, the Lightning's first game back after the break.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher was more reserved about that prospect, but hopeful.

"It's a possibility," Boucher said. "But we'll see. I'm not a doctor. But after all the time we've been waiting for him, it's nice to see he's doing well."

The return of Hedman to the lineup would be a morale boost for the Lightning, who are missing nine starters due to injury.

"He's a dominant player and they are rare in our League, so we definitely need him," Boucher said.

Evan Oberg, currently on his seventh call-up from the team's AHL affiliate Norfolk since Dec. 2, will finally see some game action tonight, his debut as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I'm happy for him," Boucher said. "He's been up and down, waiting for an opportunity to come in and contribute and he'll get that opportunity tonight."

Oberg appeared in four career games as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:16 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning won't look past road-weary Blue Jackets

TAMPA, Fla. -- After a 4-1 loss Monday in Nashville and a late-night flight, the Columbus Blue Jackets arrived at their Tampa hotel early Tuesday morning and skipped the morning skate to rest up before facing the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Rested or not, for the Lightning, struggling to gain traction for a playoff run, there can be no more welcome sight than the Blue Jackets coming over the horizon.

Columbus' 5-16-3 road record is the worst in the NHL, and they have allowed 37 more goals then they have scored away from home.

Tampa Bay apparently has shaken off the effects of a recent seven-game winless streak and is back on track, arriving home from a two-game road swing seeking their fourth consecutive win. If they get it, they will have their longest win streak of the season.

Although this will be the final game before the All-Star break for both clubs, it marks the first in a crucial 12-game stretch for Tampa Bay. They will play nine of those games at home, where they are 12-7-1 this season. If the Lightning, nine points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, are to make a run for the postseason, these next 12 games will be key.

Tuesday night will be the second and final time these two teams meet this season. The Lightning got a 3-2 win in Columbus on Dec. 17 behind goalie Mathieu Garon, who turned aside 26 shots. Garon will be back in the net Tuesday for the Lightning.

Despite a 5-1-0 all-time record against Columbus at home, Tampa Bay, with nine players out with injuries, is taking nothing for granted.

"They (Columbus) have been working hard and battling lately," Brett Clark said. "They battle hard for 60 minutes. You can't underestimate them. For us, we have to come out with the same effort we've had the last few games and sustain it for 60 minutes. That's the key."

Steven Stamkos, leading the NHL in goals with 32, discounted the Blue Jackets' road record as a factor.

"They have a poor road record, but so did we and we just won two in a row, so stats can be misleading sometimes,' Stamkos said. "You can't take any team for granted in this League and we're definitely not in a position to do that, anyway. We have one game before the break and we need a win."

Here's what both teams likely will put on the ice tonight. The Lightning will play seven defensemen and 11 forwards:

BLUE JACKETS
Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Tomas Kubalik
Ryan Russell - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Brett Lebda
Marc Methot - John Moore
Grant Clitsome - Aaron Johnson

Curtis Sanford will start in goal, with Steve Mason the backup.

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Steve Downie
Dominic Moore - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Trevor Smith - Brett Connolly
Mike Angelidis - Nate Thompson

Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Bruno Gervais - Brendan Mikkelson
Evan Oberg

Mathieu Garon will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson the backup.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 12:36 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No time for Lightning to hang heads as Bruins visit

TAMPA -- In the middle of a seven-game losing streak, their longest of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are  fighting the urge to hang their heads, but as they look forward now, they come face-to-face with the formidable Boston Bruins.

Boston, the defending Stanley Cup champion, comes calling Tuesday night for the first time this season as the Bruins face the Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

For Tampa Bay, beset with key injuries and shaky goaltending, the timing couldn't be worse. The defensive corps, particularly, has been decimated. Defensive stalwart Mattias Ohlund has not appeared in a game yet this season after surgery to both knees, Victor Hedman will miss his 10th consecutive game with a concussion, Marc-Andre Bergeron will sit out with a bad back and penalty-kill and faceoff specialist Adam Hall is still sidelined with an upper-body injury.

Other players expected to miss action include Dana Tyrell and Ryan Shannon, both with upper-body injuries, and JT Wyman with a lower-body injury.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher has worked at adjusting his players' expectations going forwarded.

"Expectations have to match the circumstances," Boucher said. "We have to fight. The shame doesn't come from losing, it comes from not fighting. That's an attitude. You can be disappointed, but you can't let that bring you down.

"It's not about the entire season and it's not about the playoffs and it's not about last year. It's about being able to focus on today, the moment."

Admittedly, the moment just ahead looks scary. The Bruins are one point out of tying for the Eastern Conference lead and are 13-5-0 on the road.

"It's only about Boston now, and they've been killing teams; not just winning, but destroying teams," Boucher said. "We are aware that this is the powerhouse team in the League; the team that destroys everybody. It's a difficult mountain that we face."

If the Lightning are to have any chance Tuesday night, they'll need a big game from NHL goals leader Steven Stamkos. Stamkos collected a point on an assist Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was held without a shot on goal for only the second time this season.

"Stamkos didn't have his best game against Pittsburgh," Boucher said. "Why? Because we were pushing in the previous game and I had on the ice for 20:57 and he had no more juice."

Stamkos has had more than 20 minutes of ice time for nine consecutive games and skated for just under 27 minutes Jan. 10 against Vancouver.

"Do I want to blame him for not playing his best game?" Boucher said. "No, because he's fighting so hard. He's giving everything he's got; the battle level, the fight level, the leadership."

"You're not going to feel your best every game of the year," Stamkos said. "If you think you are, you're leading yourself down the wrong path. I have been playing a lot, but there is no way I'll ever tell the coach I'm playing too much. I'll play as much as I can and try to contribute every shift."

This is the first time that Boston has returned to Tampa since the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals last season when the Bruins edged the Lightning 1-0 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

"We've been through a lot since then," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "This team surprised a lot of people last year."

Meanwhile, in the middle of a difficult year, Boucher is taking the opportunity to assess his team in new ways.

"It's one of those years," Boucher said. "But then you get to see who is what. Which guy fights, which guy folds and which guy flies away.

"Instead of hiding, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, no, it's what can we manage. It's not about crying over circumstances. So we take the elephant and eat it one bite at a time."

And that's a pretty daunting elephant they're facing Tuesday night.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 12:28 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Bruins, Lightning

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

BRUINS

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Benoit Pouliot - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Jordan Caron - Chris Kelly - Zach Hamill
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas

LIGHTNING

Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Ryan Malone
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Steve Downie
Dominic Moore - Nate Thompson - Teddy Purcell
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Trevor Smith - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Bruno Gervais - Brendan Mikkelson

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Penguins, Lightning

Here are the projected lineups for this afternoon's game between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay:

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
 
Chris Kunitz  -  Evgeni Malkin  -   James Neal
Pascal Dupuis  -  Dustin Jeffrey  -  Tyler Kennedy
Matt Cooke  -  Richard Park  -  Steve Sullivan
Eric Tangradi  -  Craig Adams  -  Arron Asham
 
Paul Martin  -  Zbynek Michalek
Brooks Orpik  -  Deryk Engelland
Matt Niskanen  -  Ben Lovejoy
 
Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson
 
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
 
Ryan Malone  -  Vincent Lecavalier  -  Brett Connolly
Martin St. Louis  -  Steven Stamkos  -  Steve Downie
Tom Pyatt  -  Dominic Moore  -  Teddy Purcell
Dana Tyrell  -  Nate Thompson  -  Pierre-Cedric Labrie
 
Eric Brewer  -  Pavel Kubina
Marc-Andre Bergeron  -  Matt Gilroy
Brett Clark  -  Brendan Mikkelson
 
Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 1:31 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Tale of two power plays as Lightning, Canes meet

TAMPA -- Two teams vying to avoid last place in the Southeast Division meet Thursday when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Tampa Bay Times Forum to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The clubs are just three points apart in the standings, with the advantage going to Tampa Bay, and Lightning coach Guy Boucher expects a close battle.

“They are a hard-working team; they grind it out,” Boucher said. “We’re not a high-end team and they’re not a high-end team. We’re two teams that are fighting to get whatever we can, and that makes for tight games. I expect that to be the story tonight.”

A tight game often turns on the play of special teams and in that aspect, this matchup is a tale of two power plays. The Lightning are mired in a 2-for-33 power play slump and in their last game, Tuesday night against Vancouver, struggled to even get across the Canucks’ blueline with the man advantage.

“It’s not like we don’t have a really good group of players on the power play,” Marc-Andre Bergeron said. “We’ve got real skilled guys out there.”

The problem, then?

“If I knew, I don’t think I’d tell,” Bergeron said. “I’d keep it to myself and share it with the guys. One thing for sure, you can’t win in this League without a good power play.”

True enough, and Tampa Bay has gone 1-3-1 in its last five games; their last win came against the Hurricanes on New Year’s Eve.

For Guy Boucher, the problem hasn’t been the skill of the players he sends out with the extra man, but more a matter of finding the right man to run the power play.

“Time on the power play is the last thing you want to give a guy that doesn’t have confidence,” Boucher said. “I’ve seen this my entire life as a coach and as a player. Power plays are the most stressful things for any defenseman because he’s the quarterback back there. Anything that goes wrong, he feels that he’s the one responsible for it. You need a lot of poise and a lot of confidence. Top power play guys have cockiness about themselves; you need that. There’s a swagger and an extreme confidence that goes with it. When you give that spot to the wrong guy at the wrong time, it’s a catastrophe and you can actually ruin a player’s season like that.”

Boucher’s search for the power play quarterback has led him down some blind alleys.

“I saw it happen with Matt Gilroy,” Boucher said. “I knew it was a mistake but I still made it – he had been playing well and I put him on the power play and his game went down.”

Carolina, meanwhile, seems to have found the secret. In its last six games, the power play is clicking along at a better than 40 percent success rate (7 of 17).

“It goes to execution and poise,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. “The guys are committed to simplifying it and getting shots when they are available. We’ve gotten traffic in front of the net. It’s just a matter of composure and staying with the plan.”
One break for Tampa Bay is that Jeff Skinner will not play. Although he has been cleared for contact, Skinner will sit out and will miss his 15th game with a concussion.

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jussi Jokinnen - Jerome Samson
Brett Sutter - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Tim Gleason - Jamie McBain
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Bryan Allen

Cam Ward
Justin Peters

LIGHTNING

Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Steve Downie
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Brett Connolly
Ryan Malone - Dominic Moore - Teddy Purcell
Dana Tyrell - Nate Thompson  
Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina

Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy
Brett Clark - Bruno Gervais
Brendan Mikkelson

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 12:40 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning hope to keep up home success

TAMPA -- All you need to know about the first half of the Tampa Bay Lightning's season can be found in two statistics:

Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Lightning will face the Vancouver Canucks:
a) seeking to break a three-game losing streak
b) seeking their fifth straight win at home

That sums it up.

Tampa Bay has been in search of stability all season, but the only consistency it has found is in its production on home ice. The Lightning are 11-5-0 at home and 6-15-3 on the road. Even more telling, their power play has connected at 21.8 percent at home and only 8.4 percent (worst in the NHL) on the road.

"Our power play on the road has been awful," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "I guess we like our fans at home and the reaction of the fans when we score on the power play."

But redemption could be just around the corner, as the Lightning begin a stretch where nine of their next 12 games will be at home.

"The next 12 games will show what will happen to us," Boucher said. "They will be very crucial. We've played great at home. We've beaten good teams here. Our game needs to be what it is at home and not what it has been on the road. We don't need to re-invent our game."

Although mired in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, nine points out of the final playoff spot at the mid-point of the season, Boucher hasn't bothered to track the standings.

"I've coached for 14 years now and never looked at the standings," Boucher said. "The standings today mean nothing. Today we're meeting Vancouver. Looking at how far other teams might be ahead is more discouraging than it is encouraging. Today it's not about what will happen in a month, it's about what will happen tonight in the first five minutes of the game. If we're not ready in those first five minutes, the rest of the standings really don't matter."

The Canucks (26-14-3) took the morning off after losing 2-1 Monday night against the Florida Panthers. Vancouver has not lost two games in a row since Nov. 4.

Here's how the lineups project:

CANUCKS
Alexandre Burrows - Henrik Sedin - Daniel Sedin
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Chris Higgins
Cody Hodgson - Maxim Lapierre - Jannik Hansen
Mike Duco - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Alexander Sulzer
Keith Ballard - Andrew Alberts

Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo

LIGHTNING

Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Brett Connolly
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Steve Downie
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Teddy Purcell
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Nate Thompson - Dana Tyrell

Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy
Brett Clark - Brendan Mikkelson

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 1:26 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning continue to be plagued by injuries

TAMPA -- Lightning coach Guy Boucher sounded as if he were planning a visit to a local hospital rather than preparing to take on the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"Victor Hedman is not playing tonight, that's for sure," Boucher said. "He's still day-to-day, but today, it's not looking good. Nate Thompson? Not in tonight. He's a huge part of our team but his recovery isn't going as fast as I would hope."

Hedman is sidelined with an upper-body injury incurred when he hit the boards in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, and Thompson has already missed three games with a lower-body injury.

But the list doesn't stop there; in fact, Boucher bemoaned that he hasn't had all the pieces of his team even once this year.

"We've had injuries since the beginning," Boucher said. "(Mattias) Ohlund not being there from the start has made us adjust many times in many different ways. We take it game-by-game and we can't say we really play one particular way. It really depends who we have in the lineup."

It isn't all glum, however, as Tampa Bay, winners of three of their last five, has won their last two home games by scoring five goals in each and Steven Stamkos has 6 goals and 3 assists over his past six games, pulling him into a tie with Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers for the NHL lead in goals.

Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth had some better medical details to report.

"We've got everybody available," Cunneyworth said. "Twenty-two guys ready to go."

Cunneyworth, just off his first win as the interim coach on Dec. 27 at Ottawa, was optimistic about the team's prospects going forward.

"We're trying to build something, and we did some good work last game in Ottawa," Cunneyworth said. "There is room for improvement and this game against Tampa Bay is a chance to make that improvement. We want to continue to get better, and if we do that, I think the points will fall into place."
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 1:22 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Canadiens, Lightning

Here are how the lineups could look tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Montreal Canadiens at the St. Pete Times Forum:

CANADIENS
Travis Moen - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn
Max Pacioretty - Lars Eller - Erik Cole
Michael Cammalleri - David Desharnais - Louis Leblanc
Mike Blunden - Petteri Nokelainen - Mathieu Darche

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Alexei Emelin

Carey Price
Alex Auld

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Ryan Malone
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - JT Wyman
Adam Hall - Dana Tyrell - Blair Jones

Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Bruno Gervais

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 1:30 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers back in Tampa Bay, shrug off 1-3-1 talk

TAMPA -- On Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers make their first visit to the St. Pete Times Forum since Nov. 9. Early in that contest, the Flyers launched into their version of the "hesitation waltz," virtually freezing the puck and daring the Tampa Bay Lightning to break a 1-3-1 defensive formation and attack.

The tactic set loose a firestorm of comments and reactions from notables throughout the hockey world.

But despite the notoriety, don't rule out a repeat performance by the Flyers tonight. In fact, coach Peter Laviolette doesn't see what all the fuss was about.

"I don't think it was a controversy," Laviolette said, "it was a tactic. We normally don't share our game plans with the papers, so we'll just keep our plans for tonight to ourselves."

At the time the two teams met, both Tampa Bay and Philadelphia were enjoying success on the ice; the Lightning had won six of their last eight games and the Flyers had collected points in four consecutive games.

Since that meeting, only Philadelphia has been able to maintain its momentum, going 7-2-1 over its last 10 games while battling the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. It's been a different story for the Lightning, who have managed to win only six of 19 contests since that first meeting, including a 5-2 drubbing by the Flyers in Philadelphia on Dec. 10, during the course of which the Flyers attacked the Lightning aggressively.

"But things are different in their building," Laviolette said.

Different or not, how the Flyers attack their defense will be of little concern to the Lightning, who are hoping that the three game homestand which opens Tuesday night will give them some traction to advance in the standings.

"It won't matter to us at all, not really," Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "We just play our system. If we start moving around that's when there will be holes for them to take advantage of."

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Wayne Simmonds - Maxime Talbot - Danny Briere
Matt Read - Blair Betts - Jakub Voracek
Jody Shelley - Zac Rinaldo - Harry Zolnierczyk

Braydon Coburn - Andreas Lilja
Matt Carle - Andrej Meszaros
Kimmo Timonen - Marc-Andre Bourdon

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Ryan Malone
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - James Wyman
Adam Hall - Dana Tyrell - Blair Jones

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 3:54 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames, Lightning headed in opposite directions

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Calgary Flames and the Tampa Bay Lightning, who meet tonight here at the St. Pete Times Forum, are like two ships passing in the night.

The Lightning (12-16-2) will conclude a two-game homestand tonight, hoping to grab a win before leaving for a three-game road trip. Tampa Bay has been reeling recently, having lost 11 of their last 15.

The Flames (14-14-2), meanwhile, are getting hot. After winning just eight of their first 21 games, they're 6-2-1 in their last nine games.

The Flames have scored 14 goals over the last four games and positive signs abound.

"We're showing confidence," said Calgary coach Brent Sutter. "We've worked hard and we don't want to fall back now."

Tampa Bay, by contrast, has been beset with troubles on all sides.

"Adversity, adversity, adversity," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said when asked to describe the season so far. "That's what it's been since training camp."

Boucher pointed to injuries, power-play production and secondary scoring as causes for the team's slide.

"Mattias Ohlund isn't skating and he isn't even close to coming back," Boucher said of the mainstay defenseman who is yet to play a game following offseason surgery on both knees. "It's a question of pain tolerance and mobility. His knees are worn down."

The power play, which is 24th in the League at 15.0 percent, currently is mired in a 2-for-21 slump. Last season at this point, the success rate stood at 24 percent.

Almost half of the team's goals this season have come from three players -- Steven Stamkos (18), Vincent Lecavalier (11) and Martin St. Louis (9). With St. Louis sidelined indefinitely with facial and nasal fractures, Boucher has called on other players to fill the gap; to date, they have not.

Teddy Purcell doesn't have a point in five games and has no goals and only 3 assists in his last 16; Ryan Shannon, brought in as a free agent this season to add scoring, has 1 goal in the last nine games; Dana Tyrell hasn't scored a goal in 10 games.

"We need the second and third lines to score to give us a bit of offense," Tyrell said. "We know we're capable of doing it; it'll come, we just can't get down on ourselves."

"Obviously, we're not getting the results we want," Boucher said. "There were high expectations even though last year we were viewed as a 'Cinderella' team. But we're close. It's a fine line and any game could be the turnaround game for us."
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Posted On Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 3:52 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Likely lineups for Flames, Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- Here are the lineups the Lightning and Flames likely will put on the ice when the teams meet tonight at St. Pete Times Forum.

FLAMES
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay - Brendan Morrison - Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Scott Hannan - Derek Smith
Jay Bouwmeester - Chris Butler
T.J. Brodie - Brett Carson
Miikka Kiprusoff will start in goal, with Leland Irving the backup.

LIGHTNING
Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Steve Downie
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Blair Jones - Dominic Moore - Ryan Shannon
Dana Tyrell - Nate Thompson - Adam Hall

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy

Mathieu Garon will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson backing him up.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Monday, 12.12.2011 / 1:24 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning facing adversity as Devils come to town

TAMPA -- Four games ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning headed out on the road, seeking a measure of consistency. Monday night they return to the St. Pete Times Forum having found some, but not the sort they had hoped for.

The Lightning (12-15-2) will face the New Jersey Devils (14-13-1), having dropped six of their last seven games while being outscored by their opponents, 27-13 -- certainly not the sort of reliability coach Guy Boucher was hoping to find.

"Consistency comes from habits, and there are a lot of things that are not habits for us this year," Boucher said.
"Turnovers have killed us and we don't have a powerhouse offense. We've got three big names, but no secondary scoring. When we try to 'run and gun' it, we don't look consistent like we're supposed to.

"We don't have consistency because we don't have the same attention to details and habits. The chemistry is different."

Monday will be the second of four meetings this season between these two clubs; New Jersey took the first matchup 4-2 on Nov. 19, also in Tampa. In that contest, Ryan Carter and David Clarkson led the Devils with a goal and an assist apiece.

Martin St. Louis scored for Tampa Bay, but he won't be on the ice Monday night as he continues his recovery from facial fractures suffered when he was hit in the face with a puck during the morning skate Dec. 8 in New York.

"It's unrealistic right now to think St. Louis can return before Christmas," Boucher said. "Not having him puts a gigantic hole in our lineup."

That gigantic hole may be viewed most clearly on the power play, where the Lightning are sporting a 2-for-23 success rate.

"We've got less movement on the power play now," Boucher said. "Marty (St. Louis) created things that weren't planned. You can't expect to do the same things without Marty."

Despite St. Louis' absence, the Devils are not taking anything for granted.

"The Lightning are still a really good team without him," Zach Parise said. "But he's probably their best overall player. When you lose that, other players will elevate their game, so I'm sure they'll be tough."

For Tampa Bay, things have been tough in a different sort of way.

"It's a very trying year with lots of adversity," Boucher said. "And that’s good. That's how you build -- through adversity."
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Posted On Monday, 12.12.2011 / 1:22 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Devils, Lightning

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the New Jersey Devils at the St. Pete Times Forum:

DEVILS
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Dainius Zubrus - Ryan Carter - Nick Palmieri
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Mattias Tedenby

Henrik Tallinder - Adam Larsson
Alexander Urbom - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Matt Taormina

Johan Hedberg
Martin Brodeur

LIGHTNING
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Teddy Purcell
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Shannon
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Blair Jones
Adam Hall - Nate Thompson - Dana Tyrell

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Matt Gilroy - Marc-Andre Bergeron
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon

   
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Posted On Saturday, 12.03.2011 / 1:33 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Cup heroes return to Tampa with Rangers

TAMPA - Should old acquaintances be forgotten?

That’s a good question, and especially appropriate as the Tampa Bay Lightning play host to the New York Rangers on Saturday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, because New York (14-5-3) features three old acquaintances that were here, and were big parts of the Lightning team that won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Brad Richards, currently leading the Rangers in scoring with 20 points, was the hero of the Tampa Bay playoff run in 2004, and collected a Conn Smythe Trophy as the Playoff MVP; Ruslan Fedotenko scored both Lightning goals in their 2-1 Cup-clinching Game 7 win against Calgary; and John Tortorella, the coach of the Rangers, guided Tampa Bay to 106 points and won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach.

But don’t expect fond memories to slow down a Rangers team that is sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division, just three points behind Pittsburgh.

“I don’t want to say that returning to Tampa is just another stop because that would be disrespectful to an organization and place that I worked at for eight years,” Tortorella said, “But I’m not here warm and fuzzy; we’re here to win.”

For the Lightning (11-11-2), returning after a two-game road trip in which they dropped both games, seeing their home ice again, where they have gone 7-3-0, is a welcome reprieve.

In an attempt to increase scoring against a Rangers squad that has allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (49), Lightning coach Guy Boucher scratched fourth-line defensive grinder Adam Hall for the first time this season and added Ryan Shannon to the line-up.

“The plan for today was to go after more offense.” Boucher said. “Adam Hall is playing great defensively; it’s just that we’ve been lacking secondary scoring. Not that Adam can’t score, but he’s not known to be an offensive player. The Rangers are beating everybody and seem unbeatable, and if we don’t score goals, we’re not going to beat these guys.”

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

RANGERS

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin - Brian Boyle - John Mitchell
Sean Avery - Brandon Dubinsky - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Michael Sauer
Jeff Woywitka - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Brett Connolly
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Steve Downie
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Teddy Purcell
Dana Tyrell - Nate Thompson - Ryan Shannon

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon
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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 12:18 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Panthers, Lightning

Here are the projected lineups for the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning for their contest Saturday night at St. Pete Times Forum:

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Marco Sturm - Tim Kennedy - Tomas Kopecky
Michal Repik - Shawn Matthias - Evgeni Dadonov

Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Mike Weaver - Dmitry Kulikov

Jacob Markstrom
Jose Theodore

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Ryan Shannon
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Brett Connolly
Adam Hall - Nate Thompson - Dana Tyrell

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina

Mathieu Garon 
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Saturday, 11.19.2011 / 1:18 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Veterans Brodeur, Roloson square off in net

Youth must be served, so the saying goes, but don’t tell that to the two wily veterans who will occupy the opposing nets Saturday night when the New Jersey Devils meet the Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum.

For the visitors, there is future Hall of Fame member Martin Brodeur. The Lightning will send out Dwayne Roloson, who at 42 is the oldest active player in the NHL.

“Playing against Roloson makes me feel good,” the 39-year-old Brodeur said. “I’m not the oldest for a change. He’s a great goalie and anytime you face a great goalie you always want to play well. Dwayne and I have had our share of battles through the years.”

Roloson, coming off a 33-save 4-1 win Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, was somewhat less philosophical.

“It doesn’t matter at all to me who is the other goalie,” Roloson said. “I don’t have to deal with him. Our players have to deal with him.”

Ryan Malone returns to the ice for the Lightning Saturday night, after missing four games with an upper-body injury.

The Lightning are currently riding a six-game home win streak and enter Saturday’s game with the NHL’s top-ranked home power play at 28.0 percent.

Here are the projected lineups:

DEVILS

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Nick Palmieri - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Mattias Tedenby - Brad Mills - Cam Janssen

Henrik Tallinder - Mark Frayne
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Steve Downie
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Brett Connolly
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Ryan Shannon
Adam Hall - Nate Thompson - Teddy Purcell

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Marc-Andre Bergeron
Pavel Kubina - Matt Gilroy

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon
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Posted On Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 1:32 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Penguins' goal is to keep on scoring

TAMPA, Fla -- Don't look for the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-4-3) to try any controversial stall tactics when they meet the 1-3-1 defense of the Tampa Bay Lightning (8-7-2) tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. It's just not their style.

"We won't be doing that tonight," Penguins forward James Neal said. "You can't score just standing with the puck back behind the blue line."

And scoring is something that has been coming easily to the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins of late.

In their previous game, Tuesday night at home against the Colorado Avalanche, Pittsburgh ripped four goals in the third period to pull out a 6-3 come-from-behind win, and they've pumped 32 or more shots on goal in seven straight games.

That production has certainly gotten the attention of Lightning coach Guy Boucher, who will coach in his 100th regular season game tonight.

"What is there to watch out for against Pittsburgh?" Boucher said. "My answer is everything. How's that? They are just well built. Sidney Crosby isn't there and their lines are still scary. Their defensemen are extremely smart and difficult to forecheck. If you forecheck too hard, the puck is gone and their forwards are gone and you've forechecked for nothing. But if you never forecheck, you never get the puck in their zone. It's really difficult. I think they have the best defensive core in the NHL."

There will be a few interesting streaks on the line tonight. Among them, Neal is riding a season-high seven-game points streak and Marc-Andre Fleury takes the crease tonight with a personal eight-game unbeaten streak.

The Lightning will be putting a five-game home win streak on the line, their longest at the St. Pete Times Forum since October 2007.

One other streak to keep an eye on: Thursday night begins the sixth annual two-game Dads Trip. The Penguins have swept the fathers' trip each of the past two seasons.

One thing for certain, the dads and everyone else in attendance will likely see an up-tempo game.

"We're a fast-paced team," Jordan Staal said. "And we don't want to slow the game down at all."
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Posted On Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 1:26 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Penguins, Lightning

Here are the projected lineups for when the Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum:

PENGUINS
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Chris Kunitz - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Richard Park - Tyler Kennedy
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham

Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Paul Martin - Deryk Engelland
Matt Niskanen - Alexandre Picard

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Brett Connolly
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Adam Hall - Dominic Moore - Ryan Shannon
Tom Pyatt - Nate Thompson - Blair Jones

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Pavel Kubina - Marc-Andre Bergeron
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.09.2011 / 4:07 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning D will face big test against high-scoring Flyers

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will put their four-game home win-streak on the line when they face the goal-happy Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.

As if facing the potent Flyers were not enough, to complicate matters for the Lightning, Philadelphia arrives at a time when the Tampa Bay defense is under duress.

With Mattias Ohlund still sidelined because of arthroscopic surgeries on both knees and Victor Hedman out with an upper-body injury, facing any team would be a challenge for the depleted defensive corps, but hosting the Flyers will be a particularly difficult chore.

Philadelphia (8-4-2) comes into the contest with the NHL team lead for goals scored with 56 scores, nine goals ahead of second-place Washington. That’s an average of four goals per game.

If the task facing Tampa Bay (7-5-2) was not daunting enough, the Flyers are a rested team, coming off a three day breather after stomping the Columbus Blue Jackets 9-2 on Saturday night, and Chris Pronger is back tonight too.

Philadelphia has now tallied 28 goals in their last five games.

The Lightning will have plenty of high-scoring Flyers to keep in check, including Jaromir Jagr, who has lately re-discovered his legendary scoring touch and is riding a seven-game scoring streak during which he has collected 6 goals and 5 assists. Add in Claude Giroux, the second-leading scorer in the NHL with 19 points and a five-game scoring streak including 4 goals and 5 assists and you’ve got the basis for a tough night for the Lightning defenders.

Also expected to be sidelined for Tampa Bay is Ryan Malone, hampered by an upper-body injury.

“We’re playing the only guys we have healthy,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. Then, addressing the assembled media, he asked, “Any of you guys want to skate with us tonight?”

No hands were raised.

“We have to struggle right now,” Boucher said. “It’s not necessarily our “A” line-up but that’s the reality. Hopefully, we’ll battle through. They (Philadelphia) can make you look bad. It puts a lot of stress on our defensemen.”

Likely Lightning lineup


Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Brett Connolly
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Ryan Shannon
Adam Hall - Nate Thompson - Blair Jones

Matt Gilroy - Eric Brewer
Pavel Kubina - Marc-Andre Bergeron
Brett Clark - Bruno Gervais

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon

Likely Philadelphia lineup

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James Van Riemsdyk - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Matt Bead - Maxime Talbot - Jakub Voracek
Harrison Zolnierczyk - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Matt Carle - Matt Walker
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Andreas Lilja - Andrej Meszaros

Ilya Bryzgalov
Segei Bobrovsky
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Posted On Friday, 11.04.2011 / 12:26 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Lightning, Blackhawks

These are how the lineups could look when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum:

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Brett Connolly
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Steve Downie
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Teddy Purcell
Adam Hall - Nate Thompson - Ryan Shannon

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon

BLACKHAWKS

Patrick Sharp - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Andrew Brunette
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Jamal Mayers

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook
Sean O'Donnell - Nick Leddy
Sami Lepisto - Steve Montador

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford
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Posted On Saturday, 10.29.2011 / 12:57 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Streaks on the line for Lightning, Jets

Several streaks will be on the line Saturday night as the Winnipeg Jets make their first visit to Tampa, Fla., to face division foe Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov is riding a six-game scoring streak (three goals, five assists during the streak), tied for the longest active streak in the NHL. Just behind him is Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, with a five-game streak (five goals, one assist). Saturday is the 12th Annual Tampa Bay Fights Cancer night, and the Lightning are undefeated the previous 11 nights.

The most noteworthy streak going into the game Saturday is the 11 consecutive wins Tampa Bay boasts against the Jets franchise (dating back to their time in Atlanta), the longest-active win streak by one team against another. Although the team won all six games against the franchise last season, coach Guy Boucher quickly dismissed any significance.

“I never look at that,” Boucher said. “Each year is different and to me, it’s not about a franchise, it’s about the players that are on the ice at that particular moment. If the Boston Red Sox would have thought only of the past, they never would have won a world’s championship. It’s all about today.”

Here are the expected lineups for both clubs:

TAMPA BAY

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Brett Connolly
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Steve Downie
Ryan Shannon - Dominic Moore - Teddy Purcell
Adam Hall - Nate Thompson - Tom Pyatt

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Bruno Gervais

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon

WINNIPEG

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Kyle Wellwood
Alexander Burmistrov - Nik Antropov - Evander Kane
Kenndal McArdle - Tim Stapleton - Blake Wheeler
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Randy Jones - Johnny Oduya

Ondrej Pavelec
Peter Mannino
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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 1:54 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning hope for better results against Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres will face the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, and by any measure, the Lightning (2-3-3) will be up against a hot team. Buffalo (5-1-0) has sprinted out to the lead in the Northeast Division and, coming off a shutout win against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla., on Thursday are undefeated on the road this season with four wins.

But hot or not, the sight of the Sabres arriving has rarely been a welcome one to the Lightning.  The last time that Tampa Bay posted a winning record for the season against the Sabres was the season they won the Stanley Cup, 2003-04, when the Lightning went 3-0-0-1 against them.

Since then, Tampa Bay has compiled a 5-15-4 mark, though the teams did split the four meetings last season.

For Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, the reason for the Buffalo domination of the Lightning is a mystery.

"That's tough to figure," Ruff said. "We've been on the opposite side of that with some teams like Pittsburgh. When you look at it, we've won games here lots of different ways."

Almost all of those winning ways have included goals by Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, who has acquired a reputation as a Lightning killer with 22 goals in 24 games against Tampa Bay. Vanek, who has recorded points in all six of Buffalo's games, has no explanation for his success against the Lightning.

"It's just a coincidence," Vanek said. "I've gotten the chances and the puck has gone in."

Buffalo's success against his team was less a mystery to Lightning coach Guy Boucher.

"They are a very well-coached team," Boucher said. "A lot of set plays are working for them. Teams that react faster than their opponents find success and that's what they have, they react very fast. They have smaller forwards and they are very evasive and that creates a lot of problems for slower defensemen."

The Lightning, coming off a 4-1 win against the Islanders on Thursday that snapped a five-game losing streak, are counting on duplicating that effort tonight.

"We know it's going to be a challenge," Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said. "If we play like we did last game we'll give ourselves a chance to compete and that's the game plan today."

Coming off the win Thursday night, Mathieu Garon will get his second consecutive start in net for the Lightning against Ryan Miller for Buffalo.

Here's the projected lineup for both teams:

TAMPA BAY


Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Steve Downie
Ryan Malone  - Vincent Lecavalier - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Brett Connolly
Blair Jones - Nate Thompson - Adam Hall

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
 
BUFFALO

Thomas Vanek  - Luke Adam - Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Cody McCormick - Ville Leino - Brad Boyes
Nathan Gerbe  - Paul Gaustad  - Patrick Kaleta

Robyn Regehr  - Tyler Myers
Jordan Leopold - Christian Ehrhoff
Andrej Sekera - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth
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Posted On Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 1:02 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning turn to Garon for start as Roloson struggles

TAMPA BAY -- Mathieu Garon will be in the goal for Tampa Bay when the Lightning host the New York Islanders tonight.

Garon will get the call in lieu of Dwayne Roloson after Roloson stopped only 32 of 39 shots during a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

"Physically, the challenge is there," Roloson said, reflecting on his current 5.09 goals-against average. "Mentally, the challenge is there. It's the execution that has been missing."

And if Roloson's recent performance was not enough to prompt Lightning coach Guy Boucher to call for the backup, there is this: Garon is 3-0-1 lifetime against the Islanders with a 1.61 goals-against average and a shutout.

But Garon isn't counting on past success as any indication of future results.

"I've done well against the Islanders, but honestly I haven't faced them too often," Garon pointed out. "Every day is different and every game is new."

The Islanders arrive for their first road test of the season, with four days off since they defeated the New York Rangers on Saturday.

"I'm not concerned about the long layoff," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We've worked on keeping our focus and the break gave the team time to heal and condition. I'm happy with the three days of practice that we have had."

Tonight's expected lineups:

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Steve Downie
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Brett Connolly
Blair Jones - Nate Thompson - Adam Hall

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy

And as mentioned, Garon gets the start with Roloson backing up.

ISLANDERS

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Blake Comeau - Josh Bailey - Brian Rolston
Trevor Gillies - Marty Reasoner - Matt Martin

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Mark Eaton - Mike Mottau

Al Montoya is expected to get the start in goal with Evgeni Nabokov serving as his backup.
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Posted On Monday, 10.17.2011 / 1:10 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning look to snap winless skid in home opener

The Tampa Bay Lightning have their home opener on tap tonight, after beginning the season with five straight road games, a stretch which marked their longest road trip of their season.

The delayed homecoming was a result of a $40 million dollar renovation to their home arena, the St. Pete Times Forum, which is still underway.

After the surprising success of 2010-11, the team departed confidently, but after compiling a 1-2-2 record they return to Tampa a bit humbled, toting a four-game losing streak -- which equals the longest winless streak of last season.

"It's tough -- five games on the road and two final preseason games away," forward Martin St. Louis said. "It's hard to win in this League."

Coach Guy Boucher also commented on the frustrations inherent in an early road trek.

"We've just played seven games on the road (including the final 2 preseason games). That's very difficult. We could have returned here 0-5," Boucher said. "It's tough to be on the road and be in experimental mode. That's what we are in -- we've got some new guys trying to find where they fit in. That all funnels down. There is a process and we respect the process and also try to accelerate it."

Here are the projected lineups for Monday night's game between the Lightning and the Florida Panthers:

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Steve Downie
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon - Dominic Moore - Brett Connolly
Adam Hall - Nate Thompson - Mattias Ritola

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy

Dwayne Roloson is expected to start in goal with Mathieu Garon serving as the backup.

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
David Booth - Tomas Kopecky - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Ryan Carter - Matt Bradley

Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Brian Campbell - Mike Weaver
Jason Garrison - Dmitry Kulikov

Jose Theodore is expected to start in goal with Jacob Markstrom serving as the backup.
   


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Posted On Thursday, 09.15.2011 / 10:15 AM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Predators' prospects among best at Florida tourney

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla -- The 2011 Florida Rookie Tournament gave prospects for three teams -- Nashville, Florida and Tampa Bay -- a chance to impress their organizations before NHL training camps commence this weekend.

Here's a look at six players who stood out the most during the tournament:

1. Craig Smith, F, Nashville Predators -- Appearing in two games with the Predators, Smith dominated the offensive zone in each contest. Smith collected four goals and an assist against the Tampa Bay Lightning rookies on Monday night. To prove that performance was not a fluke, he followed up the next game on Tuesday against the Panthers by adding an additional two goals. No one else in the tournament came close to his offensive production.

2. Eric Gudbranson, D, Florida Panthers
-- The Panthers played in three tournament games, but Gudbranson only played in two, sitting out the finale against the Lightning. No matter, his two appearances were enough to demonstrate how dominating Gudbranson can be. He's 6-foot-4 and hits big, too. He was never out of position and his passes were precise, resulting in two assists.

3. Ryan Ellis, D, Nashville Predators -- A smooth skating offensive defenseman, Ellis controlled the puck seemingly at will, made several end-to-end rushes, and ran the power play with confidence. Although he finished the tournament with only one assist in the two games Nashville played, he always made his presence known.
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 4:53 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Panthers close 2011 rookie tournament with win

The Florida Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 today in the finale of the 2011 Florida Rookie Tournament.
 
The game was closer than the score showed, however, as both teams wrapped the tournament with a spirited, back-and-forth battle.
 
The Panthers got goals from forwards Jonathan Hazen and John McFarland, along with a power-play score from defenseman Adam Comrie. Late in the game, with Lightning goaltender Jaroslav Janus on the bench in favor of an extra skater, Panthers forward Josh Birkholz was awarded the final goal after Tampa Bay defenseman Mark Barberio pulled him down from behind on a breakaway.
 
Brian Foster, who is signed to an AHL contract, was in the net for Florida. He stopped 32 of 33 shots as Tampa Bay outshot the Panthers 33-29. Foster's only misstep came in the final period, as Lightning forward Tyler Johnson stole the puck in front of the Florida net and scored unassisted.
 
Pat Nagle started in the net for Tampa Bay and stopped 12 of the 14 shots he faced. He gave way to Janus at the halfway point of the second period, and he was successful on 14 of the 15 shots that came his way.
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 2:05 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Conacher standing out for Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning Assistant General Manager Tom Kurvers talked about which players have impressed him here at the Florida Rookie Tournament.
 
"I've been really impressed with Cory Conacher (5-foot-8, 180 pounds)," Kurvers said of the training camp invitee. "He has some things small men need to play in the NHL. He has speed, puck skill, hockey sense and determination. When we open training camp he has a pretty good role model to see across our locker room, Marty St. Louis. Lots of under-sized guys have tried to get there (NHL), but not that many have made it, but Marty's been the best ever, perhaps.
 
"I wasn't familiar with Conacher until this spring and then again at this tournament, but he's made a great impression."

Conacher had 23 goals and 19 assists last season with Canisius College. When his college season ended, he saw time in the AHL with Rochester and Milwaukee, and Cincinnati in the ECHL.
 
Kurvers also talked about the size of the Lightning squad here, which is noticeably smaller than the opposition they've faced.
 
"Small teams can beat big teams with structure and synergy, but we really just scrapped a team together and threw them on the ice here," he said. "You'd like to win these games, sure, but there's a lot of things to factor in. Winning the games are secondary to individual performance of our young players -- we're assessing players on an individual basis. GM Steve Yzerman has been very clear in what we, as an organization, are looking for in hockey players, and hockey sense and competitiveness top the list; not at the expense of size, but when we are looking at potential players, these factors have to be present in order to argue the case for a player.
 
"Other teams have other criteria -- size is something some other teams may go after first. There are different ways of going after the prize."
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 4:27 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Final score: Nashville 3, Florida 1

In the hardest-fought, most physical battle staged to date at the 2011 Florida Rookie Tournament, the Nashville Predators fought back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat the Florida Panthers 3-1.
 
Taking center stage for the second consecutive day was Nashville rookie Craig Smith. Smith scored a pair of goals, which follow the 4 goals he scored Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In three games here, he has 6 goals and an assist.

Florida took an early lead behind a goal by Jonathan Huberdeau off a rebound of a hard shot from the point by Erik Gudbranson. Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom stopped 34 of 37 shots, including several of the challenging variety.
 
For Nashville, the goaltending tandem of starter Atte Engren and Chet Pickard, who took over at the halfway point of the second period, produced their second consecutive win. Engren stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced, including a highlight-reel glove save on a wide-open Quinton Howden from in front of the crease, and Pickard was perfect on all 20 of his chances.
 
The final game of the tournament is Wednesday at noon, when the Lightning try to break into the win column against the host Panthers.
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 2:29 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Smith's goal-scoring prowess turning heads

The surprise of the Florida rookie tournament so far has been Nashville Predators forward Craig Smith.

Smith had 2 goals today against the Panthers, which follows the 4 goals he scored Monday against the Lightning. Smith, who played three seasons of junior hockey with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League, has spent the last two seasons at the University of Wisconsin.

Goal scoring is something Smith has proven he can do in the past. He had 19 goals in 41 games with Wisconsin last season, and 28 in 54 games in 2008-09 in the USHL. He was taken by the Predators in the fourth round (No. 98) in the 2009 Entry Draft.

In the second period today, Smith ripped a slap shot from the right faceoff circle to beat Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom for his first score, and then pounded home a rebound from the slot in the third.
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 2:12 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Solid reviews for Panthers prospects

Mike Santos, Florida Panther Assistant General Manager, commented on the play of his tournament prospects so far:
 
"All-in-all, we're happy with all our prospects. It's been a big jump from last year and I think that has to do with the commitments we've made as an organization, like with our development camp this summer -- things that haven't been done in the past that now we're doing the right way."
 
One thing that stands out is the size of the Panthers youngsters, as 16 of the 27 skaters on the Rookie Tournament roster are 6-foot-2 or taller. According to Santos, that is no coincidence.
 
"Size is one of the things we look for," he said. "Character is the most important thing to us, but after that, size is something you can't teach. You can expand their skills and do things to help them be a better hockey player, but you can't stretch them out. So when they're big, they're good."
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 12:08 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Extra work for Lightning goalies

After Lightning goaltender Pat Nagle misplayed a puck behind the net resulting in a Nashville Predators goal, Tampa Bay goaltending coach Frantz Jean had Nagle and fellow netminder Jaroslav Janus on the ice early this morning, working on handling the puck and playing behind the net.
 
"Puckhandling and positioning on plays like that are typically not worked on by goaltenders during the summer," Jean said.

Although Nagle didn't get much defensive help in the 7-3 loss to the Predators, Jean didn't think he did much to help himself.

"He was fighting the puck all night, but of course, it was his first game after a college career. It's an adjustment and takes time," Jean said.
 
Sharing the ice with the Lightning trio was Panthers forward David Booth, working with his long-time skating coach Jennifer Matras.
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Posted On Monday, 09.12.2011 / 9:14 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Smith leads Preds to 7-3 win

Game 2 at the 2011 Florida Rookie Tournament is in the books as the Nashville Predators' prospects disposed of the Tampa Bay Lightning rookies, 7-3.
 
The tone of the night was set early as Nashville opened the scoring just 10 seconds in as Taylor Beck pushed the puck behind Lightning goaltender Pat Nagle on the first shot of the game. Tampa Bay tried to get back into the game on a goal by Brett Connolly, but the 1-1 tie didn't stand for long and the Predators didn't look back.
 
Indeed, it was the "Craig Smith Show" as the University of Wisconsin forward scored 4 goals to put the game out of reach. Smith seemed to always be in the right spot -- which was usually in the slot -- and his teammates had no trouble finding him there. He also demonstrated an educated shot when he ripped the puck into a narrow opening on the short side of Lightning goaltender Pat Nagle.
 
"It was a really positive night for my first game," Smith said. "My linemates were making good passes and I just kept trying to get open and find open ice."
 
Brent Andrews and Austin Watson closed out the scoring for the Predators. Cory Conacher and Alex Hutchings scored for the Lightning.
 
Chet Pickard and Atte Engren shared goaltender duties for Nashville, with Pickard stopping 20 of 22 shots while Engren collected 20 of 21.
 
Nashville will be back on the ice at noon tomorrow to face the Panthers in Game 3 of the tournament.
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Posted On Monday, 09.12.2011 / 7:45 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Connolly looks sharp for Lightning

Highly-touted prospect Brett Connolly -- Tampa Bay's first-round pick (No. 6) in 2010 -- continues to shine at the Florida Rookie Camp. His goal in the opening period, after he collected a rebound and lifted the puck over Pickard, was created by nothing but hard work. He is skating on a line with Cory Conacher and Tyler Johnson and they have produced consistent scoring chances for the Bolts.
 
"Connolly had a good year last year but it looks like he's improved tremendously," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said. " He's worked hard in the off season and his physical test results are good. He's doing everything he needs to in order to be an NHL player."
 
It didn't take Predators forward Craig Smith, who played his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin and was selected by Nashville in the fourth round (No. 98) in the 2009 Entry Draft, to make a big impression. He scored from the high slot just 10 seconds into the game and added two more goals, including a precise short-side score, before 5 minutes were gone in the second period.
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Posted On Monday, 09.12.2011 / 6:50 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Tokarski held out for precautionary reasons

The two Lightning goaltenders here at the Florida Rookie Tournament are Jaroslav Janus and Pat Nagle. Not with the team is highly-regarded prospect Dustin Tokarski. According to Lightning goaltending coach Frantz Jean, Tokarski has a muscle pull and has been held out as a precaution. Frantz said Tokarski was on the ice earlier today and is expected to be ready when training camp opens next week.
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Posted On Monday, 09.12.2011 / 5:55 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Lightning, Preds set for Round 2

Warmups are under way here for Game 2 between Tampa Bay and Nashville at the Florida Rookie Tournament.

The starting goalies tonight are Chet Pickard for the Predators (2008, No. 18) and Pat Nagle for the Lightning. Nagle, who played his college hockey at Ferris State, was undrafted but signed a two-year entry level contract with Tampa Bay.
 
Behind the bench for the Lightning will be Jon Cooper, coach of AHL Norfolk. Nashville will be coached by new Milwaukee coach Kirk Muller. In a bit of an oddity, both AHL affiliates share a common nickname, the Admirals.

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Quote of the Day

Obviously a lot happened in a short period of time. At the end of the day, considering everything I went through, I really felt close to my teammates and I really feel like what we accomplished, I know we didn't win it all. ... I'm really proud of how we got there and what we did once we got there.

— Rangers forward Martin St. Louis to Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com