BOLTS IN BRANDON
Following Thursday night’s 3-1 defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Lightning hit the ice for practice in Brandon on Friday morning where the team focused on execution and getting back to basics.
Nate Thompson was not on the ice for the practice after leaving Thursday’s contest against Toronto with an upper body injury.
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher didn’t delve into specifics on Friday regarding a number of injuries to several players.
Boucher kept mostly quiet regarding the status of forward Nate Thompson, but did at least say that Thompson would not play Saturday against the Blues and “won’t be playing for a little while.”
Boucher also gave no timetable on Vincent Lecavalier’s return. The Bolts captain has missed 12 games with a non-displaced fracture in his right hand and remains out indefinitely.
Defenseman Bruno Gervais “is available” according to Boucher, but was scratched for Thursday’s game against the Maple Leafs.
Thursday’s game against Toronto was the first matchup between the Bolts and Leafs since both teams swapped a pair of prospects in the final hours leading up to the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
Defenseman Keith Aulie suited up for the Lightning, while forward Carter Ashton made his first visit back to Tampa Bay, however this time wearing a Maple Leafs jersey.
Ashton, drafted by the Lightning in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, had two shots and registered three hits in 14:37 of ice time against Tampa Bay.
Aulie, on the other hand, continues to be a mainstay on the Lightning blue line and is averaging approximately 10 minutes of ice time with the Bolts after spending the majority of the 2011-12 campaign with the Maple Leafs’ top affiliate in the American Hockey League.
Lightning forward Adam Hall and his wife, Dina, welcomed their first child into the world on Wednesday night, as a baby boy, Evan John, was born at 7:40 p.m. and weighed in at eight pounds, four ounces, while measuring approximately 23 inches long.
Hall had spent the last three nights at the hospital alongside his wife and said he hadn’t gotten much sleep, but joked that he had received tips on fatherhood from teammate Brett Clark while his wife was in labor.
Hall also added that “everyone’s doing good.”
The final 1:22 of Thursday’s game against Toronto included a scrum between a pair of All-Stars, as Lightning forward Steven Stamkos went after Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who landed a hard check on Martin St. Louis along the boards. There was no penalty called on the play, but Stamkos took exception by throwing punches at Phaneuf.
The incident was a continuation of a separate run-in that occurred during the second period, in which both players received matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, with Stamkos getting an extra two minutes for high-sticking Phaneuf across the face.
“I thought he hit me late on that play the refs obviously didn't see,” Stamkos told The Tampa Bay Times. “I gave him a shot back. He plays that way. We all know the way he plays and tries to get under your skin. It's something that he's obviously good at doing, but the refs didn't see how that started again and missed a call.”
Following the game, Boucher said he liked the way Stamkos reacted.
“He's standing up for his buddy,” Boucher said. “He's a warrior, that kid. In every way.”
The Lightning know just how important every game is remaining on the team’s regular season schedule, and Saturday proves to be no exception as the NHL’s best team, the St. Louis Blues, come to town.
“We don’t see them quite as often as some other teams since they’re in the Western Conference, but we know they’re a tough team,” Lightning forward Adam Hall said. “They’ve got some big bodies on that team, they play physical and they get pucks in deep, so I think the key for us is just to match their intensity.”
The Blues currently sit atop the 30-team league with a 45-19-8 record, good for an NHL-best 98 points.