The Lightning welcome their cross-state rivals, the Florida Panthers, to the St. Pete Times Forum tonight as they try and build off Saturday’s 5-2 win against Carolina. Tonight’s line-up will be the same as Saturday’s and that means Antero Niittymaki will get his second start in goal after stopping 24 shots against the ‘Canes in earning his first win as a member of the Lightning. Lukas Krajicek will play again on defense. Based on the way things have gone so far this season, it appears that Rick Tocchet is establishing a strong meritocracy. If a player plays well he can expect to remain on the ice. That is why he is going with Niittymaki in goal.
“He (Niittymaki) played well on Saturday,” Tocchet said. “…Smitty is going to play a lot for us, but Nitty is going to play tonight.”
By the way, the Insider notes that some media members were looking for Smitty in the locker room after Sunday’s practice. Turns out he had to run home quickly to take his girlfriend to the airport after practice. Smitty says he’s sorry for leaving without any notice.
Tocchet also said Krajicek, who logged 11:31 in ice time with two shots against Carolina with two hits and two blocked shots, earned himself another game. “Luke did a nice job and deserves another shot,” Tocchet said.
And even though Vincent Lecavalier’s line hasn’t scored a goal, Tocchet praised them for their other work, specifically against Eric Staal on Saturday night. He said the Lecavalier line, other than allowing Staal’s smooth wrap-around goal, really limited Staal, who he called “one of the best players in the league”. Staal ended the game with a minus-3 rating.
“They’re doing the right things even though they haven’t scored,” Tocchet said. “They may not be scoring goals, but they’re doing the right things for winning hockey.”
The coach stressed the fact that the Lightning are in the business of winning hockey games. He is stressing the importance of playing as a team under a concept as opposed to playing for individual accomplishments. He has been extremely pleased with the Lecavalier line due to their work ethic in the neutral zone and away from the puck. With the level of talent of that Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay bring every night, if they keep up the work the goals are sure to come.