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Examining the Tampa Bay Lightning defense

by John McGourty / NHL.com

 
 
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The Big Four

Veterans Dan Boyle and Paul Ranger give the Lightning a strong top defensive pairing. Boyle has consistently ranked among the NHL's top point-producing defensemen and Ranger is a solid all-around defenseman who moves the puck well and has some offensive capability. Rugged Shane O'Brien will be paired with Filip Kuba, who is coming off a career year. Brad Lukowich is back and will challenge these four for ice time.

Get the point

Andy Rogers -- Tampa Bay's first pick, 30th overall, in 2004, is the most advanced defenseman in the system. He played a full season at AHL Springfield last season and had no goals and seven assists. Rogers is 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds and is a solid defensive defenseman.

Vladimir Mihalik -- Huge at 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, Mihalik made a smart decision to play two seasons of Canadian juniors and greatly improved his skating. He also became stronger and meaner.

Matt Smaby -- Another battleship at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Smaby plays a defensive role. He played for Shattuck-St. Mary's and the University of North Dakota before playing for Springfield last year, where he had two goals and 14 assists.

Mike Egener -- Several prospects have moved past Egener, the 34th overall pick in 2003. He had three assists in 75 games for Springfield last year and went minus-29.

X Factor

 

Brad Lukowich -- The veteran had his best NHL season in 2003-04 when he helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup, scoring five goals and 14 assists. The veteran also won the Stanley Cup as a rookie with the Dallas Stars in 1999. Lukowich is a smart defensive defenseman who excels on the penalty kill. He'll keep the pressure on the top four and provide solid work as the fifth defenseman.

Vladimir Mihalik
Tampa Bay Lightning GM Jay Feaster:

"The biggest battle and the biggest opportunity is going to be that sixth-defenseman spot. Andy Rogers is a kid coming in with an opportunity to make the team. Vladimir Mihalik (pictured) is another guy with a chance. Matt Smaby was up with us at the end of last season."
FAST FACTS

1.

Boyle
Dan Boyle finished seventh among NHL defenseman in power-play scoring with 10 goals and 27 assists for 37 power-play points.

2. Boyle was fourth among NHL defensemen in overall scoring with 20 goals and 43 assists for 63 points.

3. Shane O'Brien was seventh among NHL rookie defensemen in scoring with two goals and 14 assists for 16 points.


NHL.com's 2007-08 Lightning Season Preview Package:
Intro | Goalies | Defense | Forwards | Feature | Numbers | Sked | Roster
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