Lightning Strikes (Cristodero)
Images of the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Winnipeg Jets.
Tampa Bay Lightning fans likely remember James Wright as the feel-good story of the first half of the 2009-10 season, when the left wing made the roster out of junior. He played 48 games before he was sent back to Vancouver of the Western Hockey League.
Wright, 22, is back in the NHL with the Jets, who play the Lightning tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and in his team's good graces after attacking Florida's Scottie Upshall on Thursday after Upshall elbowed teammate Zach Redmond in the head in his first NHL game.
"I think that through the years the coaches have instilled a team mentality, all for one and stick up for each other," said Wright, who earned 19 penalty minutes, including a 10-minute misconduct, five for fighting and two each for instigating and unsportsmanlike conduct for instigating while wearing a face shield. "I thought that was a time a teammate got taken advantage of and it was time for me to stick up for him."
"I was happy with what happened," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "It was a good response from him."
After his stint with Tampa Bay, Wright played another season for Vancouver and in 2010-11 played for AHL Norfolk. In 2011-12, still with Norfolk, he was traded to the Panthers with Mike Vernace for defensemen Mike Kostka and Evan Oberg and was sent to AHL San Antonio. The Jets claimed him off waivers in January.
In five games for the Jets, Wright has zero points, is minus-1 and averaging 7:17 of ice time with some penalty kill time thrown in.
"He's played really well," Noel said. "He's a really dependable player for us right now, a good, solid, fourth-line left winger that skates and is hard to play against. For me, he's gotten better every game."
"There were a lot of good guys I learned from here," said Wright, drafted 117th overall by the Lightning in 2008. "Marty (St. Louis) and Vinny (Lecavalier) are classy guys, and the way they went about their professionalism was something I took full advantage of learning."
"It's going to be awesome," Wright said of playing at the Times Forum. "I haven't been back here for a while. It's going to be pretty cool."
Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected, Anders Lindback will make his fourth straight start in net for the Lightning. ... Defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron and Brendan Mikkelson and right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie are scratched. ... Mikkelson said he "dodged a bullet" when he crashed head- and shoulder-first into the end boards during Thursday's practice. Mikkelson, who is day-to-day, said all tests performed at Tampa General Hospital (an X-ray and a CT scan) were negative. He said he has no headaches and is nothing more than sore and stiff. Mikkelson said he isn't sure whether he got his skates tangled up with those of Steven Stamkos as they raced after a puck or if he just "blew a tire." Either way, Mikkelson said he never before hit the boards that hard and believes he was unconscious for a few seconds. When he came to he said he was "gasping for air" as the wind was knocked out of him. Of the collision, he said, "The guys told me it was pretty solid." ... Right wing Marty St. Louis has a dubious distinction as entering Friday he was tied for the league lead with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang with 11 giveaways. But coach Guy Boucher said he is not worried and not only because St. Louis, with 12 points on three goals and nine assists has been so productive offensively. "Some of the plays that are turnovers have worked before," Boucher said. "Why they don't work now is" because of "what kind of reads they have." The key, Boucher said, is "managing those offensive skills and creativity in a way the players are strong."
Tamp Bay Lightning defenseman Brendan Mikkelson is day-to-day with an unspecified injury after crashing into the end boards during a Thursday practice drill at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"Not a good sight," coach Guy Boucher said.
Mikkelson was taken to Tampa General Hospital for tests after he slid hard into the end boards, appearing to hit the back of his head. He stayed down for several minutes while being helped by head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan and assistant trainer Mike Poirier.
Mikkelson, 25, scratched in five of six games, skated slowly off the ice under his own power.
“He was lucid. He was talking,” Boucher said, and added. “There was no hit or anything. Maybe he hit a crack in the ice. He went plunging. Not a good sight.”
Former Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Jay Feaster was at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Tuesday night as part of the team's 20th anniversary celebration that includes honoring people and moments voted for by the fans.
Feaster, who was GM from 2002-2008 and helped lead the Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup title, is now the general manager of the Flames, the team that lost to Tampa Bay in the Cup final. Even so, Feaster said participating in the Lightning's 20th anniversary celebration was not awkward, and declared, "I still bleed Tampa blue."
Feaster spoke at length with several Tampa Bay area reporters about the importance of the Daryl Sydor trade to winning the Cup, how a Vinny Lecavalier trade was avoided, healing the rift between Lecavalier and then-coach John Tortorella and, of course, the best stories from the championship run, including 'shut your yap.'
Why was returning for the 20th anniversary celebration?
I love it here. I still bleed Tampa blue. I spent 10 years with this organization and we did some real good things, so this is always home.
Does it mean something that the fans selected you?
It means a lot. But again, when I left it wasn’t as thought I necessarily wanted to leave. So, from that perspective, to have the fans vote that, and to be asked to come back; (owner) Jeff Vinik has been great to me. (CEO Tod) Leiweke has been great to me. I appreciate the way they handled everything though the years. They took over and I still had a year on my contract and they were great about me going out there and how they handled all the things with my contract. ... I mean, seriously, Marty and Vinny is still here. The staff is still here. When I was in Calgary my first year and they were playing a preseason game, the Lightning were playing out there -- something that had been set up long before I ever got to Calgary -- I took the old staff and we went for dinner, and even before the game I stopped down to see the guys, the trainers and everything. So, yeah, it’s special, there’s no doubt about it. And I do, I follow the Lightning and, obviously, being in a different conference you can root for them. And I said outside, I hope we end up meeting I June, the two franchises.
What were the keys to the 2003-04 Stanley Cup season?
I think as much as anything, the big thing was the (Daryl) Sydor acquisition. Syd had been a winner and he knew how to win, and you go back to that Islanders series (in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal) and he’s the one when we got up there to Long Island that we had that meeting, the team meeting, and he talked about how important it is and you think you’re going to get back and you think you’re going to play for the Cup all these years and then you don’t. And he used Andy (Dave Andreychuk) as somebody, look at the career David’s had, he hasn’t had that opportunity. I just think he was such an important guy in terms of the minutes that he logged and, again, his leadership. And everybody recognizes David for what he was, he was the captain, but Tim Taylor was really important in that whole process, too. Because it was Tim Taylor when we got beat in Game 6 in Philly (in the East final), he was the one who kind of took over, you’ve got to look the devil in the eye, the whole bit.
When you close your eyes and think about the Cup season, what do you see?
I think more than anything it’s how Torts (coach John Tortorella) changed. He’s such a hard ass and yet when it comes playoff time he always says, ‘I’m with them.’ And I thought right from the get-go that the series against the Islanders when the Islanders have all kinds of doors and pathways locked up there and before I even get to the arena he’s ready to fight (Islanders GM Mike Milbury) and he’s in Milbury’s office. And then you go to the Philadelphia series and the shut your yap. All that stuff was planned. When we were flying out to Calgary for Game 6 (of the Cup final), he’s talking to me in the plane and he’s saying, ‘I’m going to put the pressure on (the Flames). I’m going to paint the picture. Hockey Night in Canada and their families are in,’ and he did it. I can still hear him when he has the team assembled in the locker room and he’s telling them the pressure is all on Calgary. And the prime minister was in at the time visiting the Flames and he has all the Canadian-born players sitting in front of him. And (Tortorella) goes, ‘Look at the pressure on them. The mayor of Canada is over there,’ and there’s Vinny and Marty over there trying not to laugh. ‘The mayor of Canada.’
What’s your best memory of the 'shut your yap' episode with Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock?
All of it was designed to take that pressure off the team. When we got to Philadelphia, that bus backs down the drive there (at the arena) and the people were 10 deep up above on that balcony area. Normally, it’s just a gong show when you’re getting off that bus, and the honest to God’s truth, it was silent. (Nik) Khabibulin gets off, walks in, nothing, Vinny Lecavalier, they walk in, not a word. They’re silent. I get off the bus next to last and then (Tortorella) and then all hell broke loose. He loved that stuff. He loved trying to take that pressure off. As a result, you think about it. What did we get beat in Game 2? It was bad. And nobody is asking about Nik or if it was a bad goal, just shut your yap. He went for a run there before Game 3 and he told me, ‘I had a school bus full of little kids pass me and one of those little kids gave me the finger.’
Talk about the Sydor trade.
The guy who doesn’t get any credit on that is (team president) Ron Campbell. But the reality of it is we didn’t have the budget to do that deal. And had he called Detroit and asked (team CEO) Tom Wilson for permission there’s no way. And I explained to him what we were thinking and what (player personnel director) Billy Barber thought of this player and what he could do for us. And to Ron’s credit, he said we’re not going to ask for permission we’ll just beg for forgiveness later. And he told me, ‘Do the deal,’ and he says, ‘After you do the deal, tell me so I can call Tom and let him know before it’s announced.’
If there had been a different GM here would Lecavalier have been traded?
I was the assistant GM and Duds (GM Rick Dudley) had a deal for him (in December 2001). It was a Friday. We had lunch here with (owner Bill Davidson) and Tom Wilson came in and Torts and I were at the lunch and Duds and Ron Campbell. And Mr. Davidson laid out the criteria that if you want to consider trading him you need to consider these things. I was the note-taker and the classic of that was that Ron Campbell made a comment at the lunch. He said, ‘Rick, that doesn’t mean you have to trade him by the weekend.’ And Mr. Davidson got upset and he snapped at Ron. He said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous Ron, he’s not going to trade him by the weekend.’ Torts and I left that day to go to Ottawa -- we were playing in Ottawa the next night -- and by the time I got off the bus at the hotel in downtown Ottawa I had a message from Duds that said, ‘Call the NHL, set the trade conference call, I traded Lecavalier.’ So, the first call I had to make was back here because we had to tell Ron, and Ron said, ‘I have to get in touch with Tom. Don’t do anything.’ And then I got the phone call later that night from Ron, and Ron said, ‘You work for Bill Davidson. You took all the notes. Tomorrow when we’re on this conference call, you need to read the notes back.’ And, of course, the criteria had not been met, so Tom and Ron said we’re not going to do it. That was the beginning of the end for my relationship with Duds. And I said when I took over, and my first meetings were, I met with Vinny after the Olympics, and I told him, ‘I’m not going to be known as the GM who trades you.’ I said, ‘I don’t know what my legacy will be, how long I’m going to be here, but I’m not going to be the trivia answer: who trade Vinny Lecavalier?’ I said, ‘But I’m also not going to get rid of Torts because Torts is the right guy to coach this team.’ I had that same conversation with John.
So, how was that relationship repaired?
I always thought the best meeting on that was after we had won and we were up on Long Island and it was a time again where Vinny’s game wasn’t making John happy and Torts decided he wasn’t going to talk to him for a while, and I said to him, ‘We have to meet.’ It was a case of the two of them sitting there and Torts explaining to him how a coach thinks and he said, ‘I have 20 guys and if they’re going that’s who I’m going to play. It’s what have you done for me during that game?’ And Vinny sat and soaked it all in and then he said, ‘I understand that Torts, but I also have the ability and all I need is one shot and I can tie that game for you. I can win that game for you.’ Torts to this day will talk about the fact that for him it was tremendous insight into how an elite athlete thinks about the game. I always thought that was a good experience for both of them. It was insight for Vinny into coach-think, but for Torts it was, ‘You know what, he’s right too. He is the guy that with one shot can tie the game or make the spectacular play.
Images of the Lightning's victory over the Jacksonville Panther's
For some players, being a healthy scratch in five of a team's six games would be maddening. But for Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie, it is a chance to learn.
Talk about a coach's dream, Labrie said he is watching teammates when they play, talking to them and ready to put what he learns into practice. That may come this weekend as Labrie, who tonight will be a healthy scratch against the Panthers, likely will play at least one game of a back-to-back with the Jets and Rangers.
"I take the positive side," said Labrie, whose only game this season was Jan. 21 at the Islanders against whom he had just 4:54 of ice time and five minutes in the penalty box after a fight on the opening faceoff with Joe Finley. "I work out to get stronger, faster, so every time I jump on the ice every day I feel better. So, when they tell me I'm in, I'm all in. It's a different mind-set but I learn so much."
For example, Labrie, a 6-foot-4, 220 pound ball of energy, said he watches how B.J. Crombeen protects his teammates by approaching opponents when he wants to send a message. He watches Ryan Malone and how he uses his body to shield the puck, and Adam Hall because the forward rarely turns over the puck.
"I take it in," Labrie said. "It's a process."
Chances are Labrie will play against the Jets and/or Rangers because both teams are big and fast. The Jets, especially, gave Tampa Bay trouble last season because of their size and strength. Labrie has size, speed and strength, too, and isn't afraid to hit or fight. The key, Labrie said, is not to try to do too much when he finally gets a chance to play. He said he fell into that trap on Long Island.
"I already learned from my mistakes in that game," Labrie said. "Now, I'm just going to do my role of a fourth-liner, keep it simple, chip in, chip out, forecheck, hit people, get the momentum and the energy."
And since the Lightning has no immediate plan to send Labrie back to AHL Syracuse, he said, "I'll be patient, no panic. There's always positives with everything."
Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected, Anders Lindback gets the start in net tonight against the Panthers but expect Mathieu Garon to play against either the Jets or Rangers. ... Defensemen Brendan Mikkelson and Marc-Andre Bergeron also are scratched. ... Crombeen, who missed Monday's practice with a bruised left foot serious enough to require a walking boot, is expected to play. ... A weird moment and just as weird explanation as rookie left wing Cory Conacher stumbled as he made his way down the hallway from the ice to the locker room during the morning skate. He later returned to the ice and said he had a skate problem. Conacher said he had inadvertently laced his right skate incorrectly, using the second lace hole from the top which, he claims, threw off his skating and, apparently, his walking as well. Conacher said he has "for some reason" left that second lace hole unused since college. So with the lace in that hole on Tuesday, "I was a little messed up," Conacher said. "We were going on the ice and I could feel it. It feels like your one leg is a little more off than the other one." Bottom line, Conacher said he is fine and will play. ... Coach Guy Boucher was asked if he would rather not see his star players fight. Captain Vinny Lecavalier got into a scrape on Sunday with the Flyers' Luke Schenn. "Obviously, when guys fight like that, the only thing I'm thinking about is not him winning but him getting injured," Boucher said. "But I can't think like that because the players react to what's happening during the game and Vinny felt it was a moment he needed to take a stand, and it had a huge effect on our players." Lecavalier has fought just 22 times in the NHL, including playoffs, and said that he is concerned about injuries when he fights but, "In the moment you don't have time to think about it. If you're going to do it, you just have to do it." Asked if he held his breath while Lecavalier was fighting Schenn, Boucher said, "A couple of seconds? How about the whole time." ... Defenseman Brian Lee has had a rough start to his season. He is minus-4 with five penalties in four games. But Lee played better Monday against the Flyers with three hits and two blocked shots in 12:36 of ice time. "We had a good talk," Boucher said. "He wanted to do too much at first like most guys who don't have too much experience with a new team. He sees the competition we've got and he wants to stay in the lineup, so he was overdoing the few things we wanted him to do. Now, he calmed his game." What does Boucher like about Lee's game? "He closes his guys," Boucher said. "He finishes his checks. we know there are things to work on but we like the fact he's defensive-minded first and we want to build on that with him."
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Marty St. Louis, third in the league with 11 points and who had four assists in Sunday's 5-1 victory over the Flyers, was named the NHL's third star of the week ending Sunday behind San Jose's Patrick Marleau and Chicago's Corey Crawford.
Here is the announcement from the league:
FIRST STAR – PATRICK MARLEAU, LW, SAN JOSE SHARKS
Marleau led the League with nine goals and 13 points, and became the
second player in NHL history and first since Cy Denneny in 1917-18 (Ottawa)
to record four consecutive multi-goal games to begin a season. Marleau
opened the season with two tallies in a 4-1 victory at the Calgary Flames
Jan. 20. He then recorded two goals, including the game-winner, and an
assist in each of the next three contests – a 6-3 win at the Edmonton
Oilers Jan. 22, a 5-3 triumph over the Phoenix Coyotes Jan. 24 and a 4-0
victory against the Colorado Avalanche Jan. 26. Marleau continued his
explosive start to the season with a goal and an assist in a 4-1 victory
over the Vancouver Canucks Jan. 27. He is the first player in Sharks
history to find the back of the net in each of the team’s first five games
of a season and the first player on any NHL team to do so since 2008, when
both the Blues’ Keith Tkachuk (six games) and the Sabres’ Thomas Vanek
(five) did so.
SECOND STAR – COREY CRAWFORD, G, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Crawford posted five wins, a 1.78 goals-against average and a .933
save percentage to help the Blackhawks pick up a franchise-record six
consecutive wins to begin the season. He opened the campaign with 19 saves
in a 5-2 victory at the Los Angeles Kings Jan. 19, stopped 32 shots in a
3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues Jan. 22 and made 21 saves in a 3-2
overtime victory at the Dallas Stars Jan. 24. Crawford capped his
performance with a pair of weekend wins, denying 24 shots in a 3-2 victory
at the Columbus Blue Jackets Jan. 26 and 29 shots in a 2-1 overtime win
against the Detroit Red Wings Jan. 27.
THIRD STAR – MARTIN ST. LOUIS, RW, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
St. Louis tied for second in the NHL with eight assists and ranked
third with 11 points as the Lightning won four of five games to open the
season. He scored two goals, including the game-winner, and added an assist
in a 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals Jan. 19 and recorded a goal and
an assist in a 4-3 defeat at the New York Islanders Jan. 21. St. Louis then
picked up two helpers in a 6-4 victory against the Ottawa Senators Jan. 25
and closed the week with four assists in a 5-1 triumph over the
Philadelphia Flyers Jan. 27.
Images of the Lightning's victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
On Nov. 9, 2011, the Lightning and Flyers engaged at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in a very strange game as the Flyers decided the best way to combat Tampa Bay's 1-3-1 defensive system was to pretty much do nothing -- literally. The Flyers held the puck in their zone waiting for the Lightning to commit a forechecker. Tampa Bay did not, so seven times in the first 20 minutes the team just stared at each other. The longest stretch was for 50 seconds.
Lightning defenseman Matt Carle was with the Flyers back then and said on Sunday, "Hopefully, you'll never see that again."
The subject came up because the Flyers are in town for tonight's game at the Times Forum. It is Carle's first game against his former team since signing with the Lightning over the summer as a free agent.
At the time, the Lightning was using a stagnant 1-3-1 formation that waited for the opposition to skate into it. Media reports made it out to be a protest by Flyers coach Peter Laviolette against the system that for some slowed down the game.
But as Carle remembers it, "We saw the way Tampa Bay was playing at the time and I think it was more or less trying to get them out of their comfort zone and get them to do something they didn't want to do. That's what you do in every game, get somebody off their game and what they're trying to do. Before the game that was the game plan, and I think all of us in the locker room, I don't want to say we were second-guessing it, but almost did a double-take because, 'Are you sure you want us to stand there and wait it out minutes at a time?' "
"I don't think any of us thought it was going to play out like it did," Carle continued. "We thought we would stand there for five, 10 seconds and then somebody would come, but, obviously, that wasn't the case. It was one of the weirdest games I've ever been part of. Hopefully, You'll never see that again."
The Lightning won the game 2-1 in overtime, but Carle said that the Lightning's passive 1-3-1 system was on his mind this summer when he spoke to Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman before signing with Tampa Bay. Carle said he wanted to make sure the team would play a system that better fit his game.
"Yeah, that was some of the conversations," Carle said. "Some of the details were toward that. Steve made some suggestions as to where they were trying to go as a team and they were trying to get away from some of that stuff, so that was comforting to hear."
The 1-3-1 certainly remains in Tampa Bay's arsenal. But with more experience on the blue line with the additions of Carle and Sami Salo, and more speed and a better goaltender, coach Guy Boucher has changed the system into a more aggressive forechecking version.
"His questions were very good," Yzerman said. "We're making a commitment and he's a free agent and has multiple options. They want to know they're going into an environment they can enjoy but also will be able to thrive in. I appreciated the conversation."
Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected Anders Lindback will be in net. ... Defensemen Brendan Mikkelson and Marc-Andre Bergeron and forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie are scratched. ... On the back left side of his goalie mask, Lindback has a drawing of a nose with a large mustache under it. The goalie said it is a tribute to his father, Lars, who wears a big mustache. Lindback said he has used the drawing since he turned pro. "He's always been there for me," Lindback said of Lars. "He was always taking me to hockey practice, so I thought it would be pretty cool. I think he appreciates it." Lindback said Lars, 57, still lives in Sweden, "but he's a big golfer," so he'll be in Tampa a lot. ... Lindback, with an inflated 3.67 goals-against average and so-so .900 save percentage said he is just okay with his game. But coach Guy Boucher said it is important to keep playing Lindback, 24, whom the Lightning wants to develop into a long-term No. 1. "He's a young goaltender who is not going to be perfect," Boucher said. "But he has all the tools to really become a top-notch goaltender. It's just experience and time right now. He has the No. 1 quality a good goaltender has and that's closing the door when it's time, and he's done that. He keeps us in games and makes key saves at the right time. We see he has all the tools. I've never seen a goaltender this big and this fast. Right now, it's just experience and time. We're going to give him time to grow, and that's what my job is, to make him comfortable in his role. It doesn't matter if we have one goal or two goals that he wants back. He's back in because we have confidence in him. It's important he feels that." ... As for Mathieu Garon, who is on a 13-3-2 streak, dating back to last season, he understands the bigger picture and doesn't mind the secondary role. "Lindy is the guy and he gives us a chance to win every night, so it's good that he plays," Garon said. "I'm here to help and play good when I play. With a schedule like we have this year, both goalies are going to play and all teams need good goaltending, so my job is the same." ... Said Boucher of Garon: "You can't get a better athlete or a person. He's the ultimate professional. He's ready when it's time. He understands we have a young guy that's got to see some ice and games so we can build him up. He understands that."