The mood in the Lightning locker room was light this morning as the players prepared for the first game of the 2009-10 season. The team flight went smoothly and the Bolts hit the team hotel around 5 p.m. yesterday, giving the boys plenty of time to get a good meal and get some rest for the game tonight. There were a bunch of Louisiana State football fans staying at the hotel last night as well, as the Tigers are taking on Georgia in Athens today. I'm told the campus is about an hour away from downtown Atlanta.
Tonight's game will not only be the first game of the 2009-10 campaign, it will also mark the first game in the NHL careers of Victor Hedman and James Wright. Both seem excited and ready to go. There is a documentary crew from Sweden here covering Hedman's first game. They have been detailing his every move for a year or more. Head Coach Rick Tocchet said this morning that the young Swede probably won't see the kind of minutes he saw during the preseason, but in the end his play will dictate how much ice time he gets.
Tampa Bay's main concern with Wright is that there may be a drop off as things progress. "We have to make sure he doesn't have a let down," Tocchet said. He added that he doesn't expect one from the 19-year-old, citing that let downs usually occur more with goal scorers. Wright will not be relied upon to contribute offensively, focusing more on bringing energy and some jam to the game.
Tocchet also talked about the difference from last year to now.
"Last year I gave some guys a little too much freedom," he said. "That's on me. I had to tighten the reins a bit."
Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby and David Hale will sit tonight. As expected Mike Smith gets the start in goal.
"Smitty is our No.1 goalie so he's going to play," Tocchet said when asked about how he plans on rotating the goaltenders to start the season.
After the game tonight the Lightning will fly to Raleigh where the team will have two days of practice before taking on the Hurricanes Tuesday night.