The Lightning get back down to business today after Tuesday’s statement game against the division-leading Capitals, a resounding 7-4 victory for the Bolts. The bad news from the game was that Mike Smith was pulled from the game in the second period after a first-period collision with Washington’s Brooks Laich. The good news is that Smith is listed as day-to-day with a cervical (neck) strain and could begin skating as soon as tomorrow. It’s just a matter of him being comfortable. According to Head Athletic Trainer Tom Mulligan he has been going through some stretching, massage and chiropractics in order to loosen things up.
With Smith not being ready to go tonight, Antero Niittymaki will get the call. He made 22 saves on 24 shots en route to earning the win after taking over on Tuesday. With Smith not being able to back up, the Lightning are recalling Dustin Tokarski from Norfolk. Tokarski, in his first professional season, has solidified himself as the No.1 guy for the Admirals this season and he has a bright future. At just 20-years-old, he has posted a 2.68 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage in 25 games with Norfolk this season. It will be his first regular season NHL appearance.
The remainder of the roster will remain unchanged and don’t expect changes any time soon. Head Coach Rick Tocchet likes the way the pieces are falling into place and said the line up is “not set in stone, but we’re going to go with this for a while.” Specifically he said that each player fulfilled their roles on Tuesday. The goal-scorers were scoring (Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis combined for four goals), the power play was clicking (4-for-7) and the grit players were mucking it up (if you haven’t Downie and Konopka check out the highlights on tampabaylightning.com). Hopefully Tuesday is a sign of things to come, and with the next two games against division-rival Florida, this is a great chance to throw some dirt on them and get closer to that eighth playoff spot.
On a lighter note, with Smith not able to practice the previous two days the Lightning turned to John Finnie to fill in. Finnie, among other things, runs the hockey leagues at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum. He played professionally in Great Britain and even for the Lakeland Warriors who once played at the Lakeland Civic Center. His reward? A bundle of goalie sticks. “One for each bruise,” Finnie joked.