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The Lightning announced this morning that defenseman Matt Smaby has been re-assigned to the American Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals. Does the move signal the imminent return of Dan Boyle?
Not necessarily. The Admirals play three games in three nights starting tonight and finishing Sunday in Philadelphia, and Smaby could use the action. Also, there’s a decent chance he could re-join the Lightning in New York on Monday. Smaby played 7:41 and seemed to have a bit of a rough outing in last night’s win against the Flyers, but the Lightning coaches are still very high on him.
As for Boyle, the team still hasn’t determined when he’ll be back. He could wake up tomorrow and feel like he’s ready to face the Sabres, or it might wait until next week’s three-game trip in New York.
The Lightning didn’t skate today after back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday. Recapping last night’s win, there were plenty of good signs. First of all, the Flyers seemed intent on pushing the Lightning around, and the team responded both physically and offensively. The game had a playoff-type atmosphere, and it reminded me of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals when Philly tried to run over the Bolts but they answered the challenge and their superior skill prevailed - same story last night.
It was very nice to see Michel Ouellet get on the scoreboard with his hustle play that resulted in the fourth goal. Lightning coach John Tortorella said Ouellet is showing signs of adapting to the Lightning way.
“He’s finding his way, and being on Gratton’s line has sparked him,” Tortorella said.
Tortorella added that he was impressed with how Ouellet responded to a homework assignment he gave the team following the October 13 loss in Florida. Tortorella asked each player to take home a DVD of the game, watch how they played and turn in notes. Ouellet’s critique of himself was that he needed to stop worrying about “goals, goals, goals” and focus on the little things, such as winning battles. It was exactly what the “teacher” wanted to read.
Johan Holmqvist was excellent again last night, although Tortorella admitted he forbade Holmer from playing the puck after his early-game struggles behind the net. Philadelphia didn’t have too many great chances, but when they did Holmqvist was equal to the task. It’s been nice to see a goaltender in a Lightning sweater frustrate opponents, and Holmqvist takes a 5-1 record into tomorrow’s game against Buffalo.
Finally, Jan Hlavac’s three-assist night was another strong performance, although Tortorella said he’d put Hlavac “on notice” during the game about his battling and play away from the puck.
“I told him he wasn’t going to play, and I saw him in the last five minutes of the game doing what he needs to do,” Tortorella said. “It was nice to see him answer.”
By the way, did anyone see Hlavac juggling the puck in the air on his stick blade at center ice before batting it into the Philly zone? Skill, skill, skill.