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Nice to be back in the warmth of Tampa, though I could do without the steadily-growing chaos that is building in the area surrounding the St. Pete Times Forum.
As predicted by Coach Rick Tocchet before the break, the time off did some good for the Lightning’s defense. Paul Ranger is expected back in the lineup tonight, which coupled with the addition of Cory Murphy last week, gives the Bolts a much stronger back line than in recent weeks. Matt Smaby is close to returning as well, though Marek Malik still isn’t ready to skate and Jamie Heward remains sidelined with a concussion.
On the negative side, Olaf Kolzig has returned to the Injured Reserve list, and we should know more about his status by tomorrow. Karri Ramo has returned from Norfolk to back up Mike Smith tonight. With Evgeny Artyukhin back from suspension a forward needs to sit, and it looks like it’s Adam Hall
’s turn tonight.
Tocchet said tonight’s game, after a four-day layoff, is about focus.
“After a four-day break for both teams, tonight is about who’s going to keep it simple, who’s going to get into it the quickest, who has the most focus,” he said.
After getting yesterday off All-Star Martin St. Louis
was back on the ice for today’s skate, re-joining Vincent Lecavalier
and Steven Stamkos
, who came straight from the airport for yesterday’s 3 p.m. practice. Due to international travel issues with his children at the airport, St. Louis had to drive to Vermont from Montreal yesterday morning then hop a flight to Orlando. Unfortunately his equipment wouldn’t fit in the rental car along with his entire family, so the Canadiens graciously brought it with them when they traveled to Tampa yesterday afternoon.