Following a day off from practice on Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning returned to the friendly confines of their home rink on Thursday to hold practice in preparation for the team’s fourth consecutive home game on Friday against the division-rival Winnipeg Jets.
With the Lightning playing their first and only back-to-back set of the season in which both games take place on home ice, head coach Guy Boucher said he will mix up the lineups for both Friday and Saturday’s games against the Jets and Rangers, respectively.
Expect the same lineup from the past few games, that includes Anders Lindback in net, to take the ice against the Jets, while fresh legs will likely skate on Saturday for the Lightning. Boucher said that he planned to use both Mathieu Garon and Pierre-Cedric Labrie over the weekend in at least one of the games.
A dangerous situation on the ice Thursday morning led to Brendan Mikkelson being taken off in an ambulance after he fell awkwardly head-first into the boards.
Fortunately, Mikkelson did get up and skate off the ice under his own power, but received medical attention as a precaution. Boucher, when asked following Thursday’s practice of Mikkelson’s condition, said he was “fine.”
“He’s being evaluated, but they took off with him just to see what was wrong with him,” Boucher said. “But he was fine, he was lucid and he was talking with no problem. They just want to make sure that there’s nothing awfully wrong.”
Much has been made of Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier’s play through six games this season, most notably his versatility in not only scoring goals, but setting up teammates with assists, crashing the net, throwing checks, and yes, even dropping the gloves.
Lecavalier is tied for second on the team with three goals and ranks fourth on the club with eight points, but a more interesting statistic is that his 19 hits not only lead the team, but also are six more than the number of shots on goal he has taken this season, which is 13.
Lecavalier, who restructured his training regimen this past summer and throughout the lockout, said he feels like he has more energy and is playing at a more physical level, which as evidenced in all games this season, has gone a long way.
“Well, I always want to have a lot of shots, so I need to keep shooting the puck, but to have that many hits is a good sign of something else,” Lecavalier said. “I tried to become more physical this season, and I think my game has taken off and has really got off to a good start because of it.”
THE PELICAN BRIEF
There was a funny moment following Thursday’s practice during a media availability session with head coach Guy Boucher when one of the reporters asked if he knew the details of Wednesday’s fishing excursion spearheaded by defenseman Keith Aulie that also featured teammate Pierre-Cedric Labrie with what appeared to be the catch of the day.
Boucher did not know, actually, but quickly burst into laughter once he was showed a picture of Labrie, not showing off his prized fish, but rather, a pelican.
“I’m not at all surprised,” Boucher said laughing. “They didn’t eat the pelican, did they?”
It turns out the pelican took a nose dive into the water in an attempt to score a bite of Labrie’s bait as a snack, but instead surfaced with a hook caught in his beak.
When Boucher was told the captain safely removed the hook, the Lightning head coach responded in a serious manner, asking, “Who? Vinny?”
The media member quick to clarify the point once the raucous laughter subsided, was referring to the boat captain, of course, who successfully released the bird, as it flew off back into the wild.
ODDS AND ENDS
Martin St. Louis participated in practice Thursday, but was wearing the yellow jersey that is normally reserved for injured players. St. Louis, as it turns out, does not have an injury, but was wearing the jersey instead as the result of some sort of bet he made with his Lightning teammates.
The American Hockey League held its annual All-Star Game on Monday, and although the Western Conference prevailed over the East which featured several players from the Lightning’s top affiliate in Syracuse, several of the club’s prospects landed on the score sheet. Defensemen Radko Gudas and Mark Barberio recorded two and one assists, respectively, while forwards Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik also recorded an assist each.