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It’s been a long wait, a little too long as a matter of fact, but hockey is finally back at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight. I know it’s only preseason, but with the Eastern Conference Champs in town and so many new faces in the Lightning lineup, there will be an extra buzz in the arena tonight. Home fans will get their first chance to see Steven Stamkos
in action, as well as Ryan Malone
, Radim Vrbata, Matt Carle, Janne Niskala, David Koci, Zenon Konopka and Andrej Meszaros. Tonight also marks the return of fan favorite Evgeny Artyukhin.
Other than the big names like Stamkos and Malone, I’m most interested to see two younger players in action. It’ll be a big night for 2007 second round draft choice Dana Tyrell
, who will be playing in his first NHL preseason game. It’s a longshot that he’ll make the roster, but I’m sure many of the Lightning brass are curious to see just how strong of a prospect he is.
The other guy I want to watch is defenseman Ty Wishart. With his size and skating ability he's my sleeper pick to earn a spot on the blue line. Guys such as Mike Lundin, Andrew Hutchinson and Janne Niskala are probably favorites to stick around – maybe even Matt Smaby – but I wouldn’t be surprised if Wishart wins a job now or during the season.