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Petiot Impressing in Lightning Audition

by Mark Pukalo / Tampa Bay Lightning

Defensemen getting their first few chances at an NHL job often try and avoid mistakes, rather than play with an aggressive mindset.

Richard Petiot has been waiting too long to be timid.

Since Petiot was recalled by the Lightning last week, the small-town boy from Daysland, Alberta has made a strong statement for more time.

“I’ve just tried to play my game and not back off at all,” said Petiot, 26, who played his only other two NHL games with Los Angeles in 2006. “I have to go out there and play physical and try to make plays.

“It’s definitely a good opportunity for me. It’s a young defense corps here. I’m just trying to go out there and make the most of it.”

Petiot was playing his fourth straight season in the American Hockey League earlier this month. Nothing seemed to be happening for him.

Suddenly, he was suiting up for the Lightning against the Ottawa Senators March 10. The Lightning acquired Petiot from the Toronto Maple Leafs just before the trade deadline March 4 for Olaf Kolzig, Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers and a fourth-round 2009 draft pick.

The 6 foot 2, 190-pound Petiot helped the Lightning go 2-0-1 on their recent three-game trip. He posted his first two NHL assists in the come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory at Florida, playing 21:36. He was a plus-3 in the three games, averaging more than 18 minutes a game. He's not only been aggressive. He's been solid.

“This is his audition and I like the way he’s been getting up in the play, closing the gaps,” Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet said. “Defensemen are going to get beat one on one once in a while in the NHL because they’re playing against great players. But if you can get up in forwards faces consistently, that’s the style we want to play.”

It has been a nice week for Petiot during a season that started with heartache.

Petiot lost his father, Jerry, to a heart attack Nov. 7. Jerry, who was 59, was a school custodian, volunteer fireman, licensed mechanic and helped out with the town’s police patrol among other things. He even took time to run the clock for the senior-league hockey games.

I’m playing for a job, so I’m going out there to play hard every day. I’m sure the adrenalin will be there for me every game. - Richard Petiot
The main thing Petiot said he learned from his father and mother, Shirley, was the value of hard work. Petiot said he talked with his father a couple times a week and helped out at the school in the summers, cutting grass with him.

“I’m going to miss him,” Petiot said.

Petiot was out for more than 10 games before returning to the Toronto Marlies’ lineup in early December.

 “It was tough,” Petiot said. “When I first came back, every day a thought came into my mind. But you have to battle through it. I felt better as time went along.”

Petiot, who has three brothers and one sister, grew up in central Alberta, about a half hour from Camrose and 90 minutes from Edmonton. His hometown is pure Canada. Daysland, primarily a farming community, has a population of just over 800, does not have a stop light, but it has a hockey rink. Defensemen Matt Spiller, currently with Lowell of the AHL after playing 68 NHL games with Phoenix and the New York Islanders, also grew up in Daysland.

The Kings drafted Petiot in the fourth round of the 2001 Entry Draft, before he played four seasons at Colorado College. Petiot scored 11 goals and helped lead the Tigers to the NCAA tournament three times, once making The Frozen Four in 2005.

Petiot played two games for the Kings in early 2006, one of them against the Lightning, but spent most of three seasons with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. Petiot had 14 points in 45 games for the Marlies before the trade to Tampa Bay.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Petiot said. “I’m playing for a job, so I’m going out there to play hard every day. I’m sure the adrenalin will be there for me every game.”

Tocchet said what he is looking for are defensemen that can go back to get the puck and make a good outlet pass. Petiot’s size can help him.

“When you have defensemen that are lanky and can skate pretty well, you’re at an advantage right off the bat,” Tocchet said. “It’s up to him to take it to a different level if he’s going to be an NHL guy.”

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