Tampa Bay Lightning training camp, Day 5
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I was starting to worry about my prediction that Team White had too much offense for Team Black to contain in the scrimmages, but Chris Gratton and Jason Ward got me off the hook today. Trailing, 1-0, in the second period, Gratton beat Johan Holmqvist with a wrister on a breakaway and Ward tipped in a centering pass by Brad Richards for the winner. The smaller but vocal crowd (how do people pull off missing work on a Monday morning?) seemed pleased that there wasn’t a third 1-1 tie.
Early on I was regretting my prediction, based on the way the Vincent Lecavalier-Marty St. Louis-Vaclav Prospal line was flying. You can tell they don’t have their timing back yet, but they are downright scary nonetheless. Prospal scored the prettiest goal of the camp so far, breaking down the right wing, shielding the defender and roofing a puck short-side that Karri Ramo still hasn’t seen.
Goaltending-wise, Marc Denis was perfect again and now has some gaudy numbers from the scrimmages with a goals-against average of 0.74 and a save percentage of 0.972. All three goaltenders were strong once again.
Handicapping the race for the sixth defenseman spot:
- Jan Hlavac was back skating with the Richards-Michel Ouellet line, while Andreas Karlsson was back with Gratton and Ward.
- Speaking of Hlavac, he took a shot from teammate Filip Kuba off the ankle and limped off the ice, but returned in time for his next shift.
- John Tortorella commented after practice that he felt this day (the fifth of camp) is traditionally the hardest for the players, and he’s pleased with the condition the guys are in. He also said the defense and goaltending has been the strongest part of the scrimmages so far (only seven total goals scored in three games), and that the defensive coverage was excellent for both teams today, except on the Gratton goal.
- Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times had to endure a 5-minute walk of shame after dropping his pen off the balcony where media and Lightning staff gather to watch the scrimmages. Can’t The Tampa Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson afford to spare one for a colleague?
- Lightning scouts Dave Heitz and Gerry O’Flaherty should take their act on tour. These two never seem to have a bad day, seemingly always enjoying their jobs. Based in Minnesota (Heitz) and Vancouver (O’Flaherty), the two Lightning professional scouts play a large part (along with others) in helping Jay Feaster, Bill Barber and Claude Loiselle make personnel decisions.
Dan Jancevski – He’s big, steady and mobile. Some considered him a favorite to win the spot entering camp, but I wouldn’t say he’s wrapped anything up just yet.
Doug Janik – Doug was solid last year, and he’s come into camp with a new level of determination. He’s in better shape, and he’s playing with more of an edge to his game. My money’s on him.
Bryce Lampman – A similar player to Janik, he’s calm with the puck and makes smart decisions. Even if he doesn’t make the roster out of camp, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the NHL soon.
Jay Leach – Leach is a physical specimen and plays with more of an edge to his game than some of the others. If the Lightning brass is looking for size and physicality, it helps his chances.
Mike Lundin – Mike came into camp as a bit of an unknown, and his stock has done nothing but rise. Not really expected to be in the NHL this season, Mike could turn out to be a Paul Ranger-type surprise in the next year or so.
David Schneider – A late addition to camp, David is fast, smart and moves the puck quickly like the Lightning coaches want. He’s a dark-horse candidate at this point, but he’ll be a strong asset in Norfolk is he doesn’t make it.
Matt Smaby – As John Tortorella said today, Matt will play in the NHL, the only question is, when? He’s big, he’s physical and he progressed as expected in Springfield last season. He could win a spot with strong preseason games.