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Garon to start in net for Lightning

by Dave Lozo

NEW YORK -- Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon will make his second straight start Thursday, giving Anders Lindback another break, when the Lightning face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Lindback hasn't played since Sunday, when he allowed three goals on 10 shots against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 5-3 Lightning loss. He was pulled after the first period of that game, and he was the last player to come off the ice at Thursday's morning skate.

"Every game he's in, he gives us a chance to win," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of Garon, who has stopped 61 of 66 shots (.924 save percentage) in his past three games. "He plays very calm for me, that's what I see. There's not a lot of big rebounds for the other team to capitalize on. He's been very good."

Lindback wasn't labeled the No. 1 goaltender by Boucher and general manager Steve Yzerman when he was acquired in a trade over the summer. Lindback played the previous two seasons with the Nashville Predators, backing up Pekka Rinne and appearing in a total of 38 games.

Lindback has played 14 games this season -- two fewer than he played last season -- and the Lightning are allowing him to catch his breath. He's 7-4-1 with a 3.27 goals-against average and .890 save percentage, but has allowed 17 goals in his past 13 periods of play.

"He comes in and he's a young goaltender that we're going to groom and he's going to go at his own pace," Boucher said of the 24-year-old. "We're not going to put pressure on him and we're not going to put a number on him. He started well and we were winning some games, but there's still some things he needs to work on as a youngster. He got a lot of games and a lot of pressure, and right now we're just stepping back and giving him a breather, but he's exactly where a young goaltender should be with a lack of experience like he had before."

Boucher ruled out defenseman Sami Salo and forward Ryan Malone, who each have a lower-body injury. The Lightning will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, as Brendan Mikkelson will take Salo's place on the blue line.

Salo was injured Tuesday, and Malone has been out since Feb. 7. He nearly returned for the Lightning's previous game at MSG on Feb. 10, but after testing his injury in warm-up, he determined he could not play.

Here’s what the Lightning lineup could look like as they go with an extra defenseman against the Rangers:

Cory Conacher - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell

Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Benoit Pouliot

Alexander Killorn - Tom Pyatt - Nate Thompson

Richard Panik - B.J. Crombeen

Victor Hedman - Brian Lee

Matt Carle - Eric Brewer

Marc-Andre Bergeron - Keith Aulie

Brendan Mikkelson

Mathieu Garon

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Adam Hall, Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Injured: Sami Salo, Ryan Malone

Note: Boucher was asked a generic question about facing the Rangers, who have beaten the Lightning twice with Rick Nash playing a big role in both wins, and gave an honest answer about the injured forward's tentative status for this game: "Is Nash playing? Because he sort of beat us 1-on-1 a few times. He's just very difficult to handle 1-on-1. If you look at the last games, he took over in the third period against us when it was a tight game and the same thing here last game. He's very tough to handle."


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