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It was a busy morning skate for the Lightning with the Rangers in town, and there was a decent amount of media milling about. The exciting changes happening in Tampa Bay have made the team a national and international story, with reporters from TSN, The Washington Times, The Sporting News, Slovakia and Finland in town this week to document the excitement.
Here were the lines at the morning skate:
Vaclav Prospal, Jussi Jokinen, Martin St. LouisRyan Malone
, Steven Stamkos
, Radim Vrbata
Gary Roberts, Chris Gratton, Mark RecchiAdam Hall
, Ryan Craig, Jason Ward
The defense pairings were mixed so I can’t be sure who will be with who, though it looked like O’Brien and Lundin might be together. Mike Smith is expected to play the entire game in goal, with Riku Helenius
After seeing him skate between Roberts and Recchi, I asked Gratton how long it’s been since he was the youngest guy on a line, to which he laughed and joked “I feel like a rookie. I have to get the tape for their sticks and put it in their stalls in the morning.”
Much had been written during the summer about the extra NHL forwards in camp and how players such as Jason Ward, Michel Ouellet and Jussi Jokinen could be moved before the season to make room. Well, Melrose addressed Jokinen’s situation after the practice.
“Jussi Jokinen has played two great games,” he said. When asked if he’d go to VP of Hockey Ops Brian Lawton to ask to keep a guy like Jokinen around, Melrose was direct.
“I already have. I’ve got to go to battle for the guys I want on my team.”
Melrose also praised Zenon Konopka and Janne Niskala as players who’ve done everything asked of them to make the team. The roster is expected to be reduced by close to 10 players following tonight’s game, which would leave only a few more cuts before the team departs for Prague on Thursday.