|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. Have a question or comment for The Insider? Send me an email at Insider@tampabaylightning.com
It was an easy morning today for the Lightning following last night's thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the St. Pete Times Forum. The team got to the hotel around 2 a.m. last night and gathered today for a 11:30 a.m. meeting at the team hotel.
The line up will not change tonight against the 'Canes, which is the third of four meetings in Raleigh this season. Newly acquired Mike Smith felt good after the game and will get right back in the Lightning net tonight. Despite the strong play of their new goaltender, it has been the line of Jeff Halpern, Mathieu Darche and Michel Ouellet that has drawn the attention of coach John Tortorella. He told the media this morning that the line has been Tampa Bay's best in the past two games. The main story of the line has been Ouellet, who has three goals and four points in the previous three games. Tortorella cited his ability of late to get the puck off his stick faster and to the net in helping him getting more quality shots on goal.
Tortorella also told the media today that he intends on playing Dan Boyle against Carolina's top line, more specifically Eric Staal. The coach praised the job Boyle did against Toronto's Mats Sundin, who he said was an "animal" in the game, and intends to continue playing him against other teams' top forwards. Sundin holds a six-inch, 47-pound size advantage over Boyle and he did a good job defending against the Maple Leaf captain. As Tortorella has always said, the media's attention may usually be on Boyle's offense, but his play in the defensive zone is what makes him one of the best in the game.
The coach also like the play of Junior Lessard, who made his Lightning debut last night. Even though he wasn't on the score sheet, Tortorella said he liked Lessard's presence around the net, his physicality and his ability to pick up the Lightning system. Alexandre Picard has also earned the eye of the coach and will continue to get a good share of ice time. Tortorella said his ability to play the point on the power play is crucial with the departure of Brad Richards. He said Picard has a natural ability that can not be taught as far as playing on the power play.