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Southeast: Lawton makes Olympic case for Stamkos

by Mike G. Morreale /
If Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Brian Lawton was executive director for Team Canada for the 2010 Olympics, there's little doubt center Steven Stamkos would be joining the team in Vancouver.

As a guest of E.J. Hradek and Craig Button earlier this week on NHL Live!, Lawton said he spoke to Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman two weeks ago regarding Stamkos. Lawton's report, as you might imagine, was glowing.

"I may be biased, but he absolutely should be on the team," Lawton said. "I certainly let Steve Yzerman know how I felt about Steven Stamkos and the way the game is now -- it's played with such energy -- you can't use those veteran traits you used to do like hook and hold. So we've seen a lot of players who have had a lot of success and I think that's going to be even more exaggerated in the Olympics, quite frankly. I think you're going to see even more of an unimpeded game and people like Steven Stamkos, who are amazingly quick, can shoot the puck and jump into a hole are very valuable players."

Yzerman's plan is to name the 23-man Canadian roster sometime between Christmas and New Year's. The deadline established by the IIHF for Team Canada to submit its roster is Dec. 31.
Stamkos, who is in his second season, has a team-leading 13 goals (6 power-play goals and 1 shorthanded), is first in points with 19 and sports a plus-5 rating.

"He's having a magnificent year so far," Lawton praised.

Lawton also said he feels his club has really benefitted from the draft in recent years.

"We're happy because we feel as an organization the draft is working for us," said Lawton, whose club tabbed defenseman Victor Hedman with the second pick last June. "We have a long way to go and we know that because we've had a couple of rough years (missing the playoffs the last two seasons). But these young players are developing into core players for us and that's what the draft is supposed to do."

Panthers get tough -- In an effort to bulk up around the goal cage and perhaps set the record straight on occasion, the Florida Panthers reclaimed 6-foot-5, 250-pound left wing Steve MacIntyre from the Edmonton Oilers earlier this week.

"We want to play grittier and we wanted to upgrade the toughness on our team," Panthers General Manager Randy Sexton said. "We took a couple of steps a few weeks ago with (Victor) Oreskovich and Kenndal (McArdle). They've done a good job and this is just another step in the process.

"We're building a team that's capable of holding its own physically with anybody, and it doesn't happen overnight. It's a step-by-step process. Steve is a good, physical player."

MacIntyre has totaled 200 or more penalty minutes in six minor-league hockey seasons. He was actually signed by the Panthers in July 2008, but claimed off waivers by Edmonton two months later when Florida looked to assign him to Rochester.

"He gives you a whole new dimension," said defenseman Bryan Allen. "He makes a lot more guys confident and makes the other team think. With a guy like him in the lineup, he makes there be a consequence.''

The second-season forward had 2 goals and 40 penalty minutes in 22 games last season for the Oilers. In four games this season, he was pointless with 7 penalty minutes.

MacIntyre cleared waivers Wednesday and was immediately assigned to Florida's American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester.

"When we did our research last June 18, he was one of the first players we asked for," said Rochester owner and CEO Curt Styres. "He is a good fit for the Rochester Americans and we are glad he is joining our team."

Defensive charge -- In the six-game absence of captain Ilya Kovalchuk, the Atlanta Thrashers looked to their defense for their offensive attack.

While that may surprise many, it certainly doesn't General Manager Don Waddell, who has spent the better part of the last four seasons working to upgrade the team's back end. It seems to be paying off this season as 16 of the team's 47 goals prior to their 5-3 victory against the New York Rangers on Thursday were scored by defensemen.

The Thrashers, third in the Southeast Division, are currently third in the League with a 3.47 goals-per-game average. Last season, the club finished ninth with a 3.05 average. The return of Kovalchuk to the lineup against the Rangers on Thursday was certainly a shot in the arm -- the Thrashers captain finished with a goal and two assists in the victory.
Sophomore Zach Bogosian is tied for the League-lead among defensemen with 6 goals this season. His usual partner, Tobias Enstrom, has 2 goals and 5 points in the Thrashers' past four games. In fact, all seven defenders on the roster have at least one goal this season, including Bogosian (6), Pavel Kubina (3), Enstrom (2), Ron Hainsey (2), Mark Popovic (1), Anssi Salmela (1) and Christoph Schubert (1).

Boudreau's book report -- By now, you're probably aware that the recently released autobiography of Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has become a huge success in and around Verizon Center.

"Gabby: Confessions of a Hockey Lifer", co-authored by Tim Leone, details Boudreau's off-ice battle with diabetes and his on-ice rise to becoming head coach of the Caps in November 2007.

Mike Wise of The Washington Post penned a nice recap of the 228-page book earlier this month. Here are a few segments that certainly should arouse your interest.

For starters, Boudreau mentions his original booking on Flight 175 that struck the World Trade Center and a rookie hazing incident that landed him in the hospital during his first season as a player with the Minnesota Fighting Saints in 1975-76.

"They pinned me down on a gurney and tied my legs and arms," Boudreau writes. "They shaved my head and pubic area. Then they put turpentine on the cuts and smeared black tar on my groin and chest. They finished by gluing my armpits and left me lying there bawling like a baby until the trainer came and took me to the hospital. If I didn't love the game so much, I would have quit after that day."

Boudreau also said telling his story has actually made him a better communicator and coach. On the opening day of his book signing at the Capitals practice facility on Oct. 31, he sold over 400 copies.

Legace not enough -- It's one thing to go out and sign a veteran goalie to help stop the landslide that the Carolina Hurricanes are currently in, but it doesn't change the fact the team needs to continue its fight for a full 60 minutes.

"We have to fight like the last 20 minutes for 60 (minutes), and then harder, and then some," coach Paul Maurice told the media following his team's 13th straight loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Kings.

"We're just not willing or seem like (the players) fully appreciate, when you're undermanned, exactly how hard you have to fight."

And so the futility in Carolina continues, two days after General Manager Jim Rutherford signed veteran goalie Manny Legace when it was learned Cam Ward would be sidelined a month with a laceration of the left leg.

Entering Friday's game against the New York Islanders, Carolina (0-10-3 in their last 13) had equaled the worst start in franchise history with seven points in 17 games. A loss to the Islanders would match the club record of 14 straight defeats (0-8-6) set in 1992 when the franchise was stationed in Hartford.

In the team's 5-2 loss to the Kings, Legace made 26 saves. Despite the loss, Maurice was happy with his goalie's debut between the pipes.

"I liked his game," said the coach. "That team (Los Angeles) drives the net really hard and he worked the puck well. I don't expect to dominant the L.A. Kings because they're a good team, but I do expect our fight level to be a little better."

Said Legace: "I just didn't make a big save in the third period (when the Kings scored three times) to give our guys a chance to win."

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