It is never an advantage to have a hefty list of players on injured reserve, but keeping it positive, as the Tampa Bay Lightning have continued to do, does have its upsides.
Constantly seeing new faces in and out of the lineup can make it hard for the opposition to even know many of the players they are going to face. This in turn means they do not really know the tendencies of those players either.
The Bolts have a fresh, young roster in front of them to boot and their energy level is high.
However those upsides serve as the Lightning’s downsides too.
Tampa Bay’s coaching staff can only predict so much on paper from their team, but they have to wait and see what will unfold on the ice.
“It’s just a different dynamic the whole game,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “But it’s a tribute to what Rob Zettler (Syracuse Crunch head coach) is doing in the minors.”
While uncertain what their most recent lines shuffles would produce, the Bolts coaches and management were pleasantly surprised by Martin St. Louis and Ondrej Palat’s chemistry, as the two accounted for four points.
First putting the most skilled teammates together on a line, the Lightning saw no results. Cooper’s next step in the process was to add some grit. Overall, he was happy with what resulted from the changes last game.
LINDY GETS THE CALL
Cooper pointed out that Tampa Bay has benefitted from netminder Ben Bishop’s outstanding play, but Anders Lindback will have another chance to prove himself this evening against the Winnipeg Jets.
Despite a dismal 2-5-0 record in eight games, Lindback has not played poor in net. Each team he has been handed the loss against actually has no lower than 37 points in their respective divisions (the Lightning have 35 points).
Not seeing as much time as he has hoped, Lindback has learned how to mentally prepare for the back-up role simply through experiencing it.
“Then when I get my chance, I try to prove myself,” he said.
In his most recent stint, Lindback helped the Bolts defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 at home on November 27. He stopped 19 of 21 shots he faced.
ONE OF TWO WAYS
Opponents usually come to Tampa Bay after facing the Panthers in Sunrise, Florida and the outcome of that contest usually determines one of two mindsets when facing the Lightning.
“Coming in, I always hope our opponent beats the Panthers because then they usually are satisfied with the two points they earned against Florida,” Cooper said. “When a team goes in and Florida beats them, they come here and are usually really hungry.”
With the Jets coming to the Tampa Bay Times Forum after a loss to the Panthers Thursday, the Bolts are prepared for a Winnipeg team that is looking to rebound from their most recent dropped decision.
ANOTHER HEALTHY SCRATCH
Last off the ice Saturday with an injured P.C. Labrie and Tom Pyatt, forward Richard Panik faces his second straight scratch of the season. Yet Panik is determined to turn his mistakes around.
“Cooper and I had a meeting and he said I have to shoot more, go harder to the net and work hard every shift,” Panik said. “I’m going to work on that and hopefully I can convince him I should be back in.”
While it is never good to be the odd man out, Panik is motivated to use every chance he gets to help him return as soon as possible.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Nate Thompson’s wife, Cristin Stuart, is sisters with Thompson’s former teammate and current Winnipeg Jet, Mark Stuart’s wife.
Blueliners Eric Brewer and Radko Gudas are both expected to return Saturday night against Winnipeg.
The Lightning will be wearing their third, alternate jerseys for Saturday’s 7 p.m. contest at the Times Forum.
Cooper said that Victor Hedman was “feeling better” today, but he quickly pointed out that it does not mean anything too significant, as Keith Aulie also said that his health had improved, despite the fact that he will be out at least two more months.