Let Tampabaylightning.com become your destination for all the latest Lightning scoops. The Lightning Insider will be in the stands, in the locker room and on the road with the team throughout the 2007-08 season to provide you with a positive look at the Bolts as they pursue Lord Stanley’s hardware. Our resident snoop will post the latest following practices and morning skates, and he’ll make sure you’re the first to know when the Lightning are making news.
The team moved back into the St. Pete Times Forum for practice at 11 a.m. today in preparation for Thursday's opener against New Jersey. Before the skate, ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale visited the Lightning locker room with his wife, daughter and grandkids. They received a tour from John Tortorella before Vitale and Tortorella participated in a photo shoot for Vitale's charity event Saturday at the Marriott Waterside Hotel. The event, which starts at 4:30 Saturday, is being run by the Lightning Foundation and will benefit The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
On the ice, the Lightning started out with a special teams practice, mainly focusing on the penalty kill. Tortorella seems to be allowing new assistant Mike Sullivan to inject a lot of his ideas into the special teams, which should create some new wrinkles at both ends of the ice.
After the special teams work the focus was on entering the opponent's zone, as well as defending against the same. Near the end Tortorella held an animated teaching session along the boards on the ice, drawing up Xs and Os on a wipe board.
Following practice, the positive sight of the day was Ryan Craig on the ice for the first time since his back flared up. Craig skated on his own for 10 minutes under the supervision of athletic trainer Tom Mulligan. Andreas Karlsson, who suffered an abdominal strain in practice Monday, seemed to be moving much easier but wasn't able to skate today. Looks like Mathieu Darche will get his spot in the lineup Thursday, and Tortorella said it will be a chance to earn a regular job.
Tortorella also named Johan Holmqvist as the starter for Thursday, and when the post-practice talk with the media turned to the defense, Tortorella said he’s asking the defense to be more aggressive this year, but the right kind of aggressive.
We need to be more of a physical team when we have the opportunities,” Tortorella said. “We want to cut down on the chances we allow.”
For the players, today was one of two or three days each season on which they sign hundreds of items that the Lightning Foundation will use for charity donations. A sea of tables greets the players as they approach the locker room, with the Lightning Foundation's Arlynn Haarer directing the chaos while the players sign individual and team items. For some, such as Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards, so many items await that they have to take two shifts - one before and one after practice.
The team is scheduled to practice at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the St. Pete Times forum in the final tune-up before the opener.