Konopka, Zenon

Prospects and Stars to Highlight Lightning Pre-Season Home Opener

Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune has released the roster for the Tampa Bay Lightning's only pre-season home game Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers. 2009 1st round draft picks Victor Hedman and Carter Ashton highlight six prospects that will get important starts in a star-filled lineup in front of an expectant home crowd. After playing 27+ minutes against Dallas Wednesday night, Hedman will get a chance to showcase why he was the #2 overall pick this summer. Ashton will line up on right wing alongside franchise center Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay on what presumes to be Tampa's top line. A heady start for the young power forward whom most believe is headed back Lethbridge for one more year of juniors. Forwards Paul Szczechura, Richard Panik and Blair Jones get their second consecutive starts after playing Wednesday against the Stars. Jones tallied the go-ahead goal in the third period before the Bolts succumbed to a shootout loss. Prospect goaltender phenom Dustin Tokarski will relieve Mike Smith for the third period and demonstrate to the home crowd as to why he won the 2008 Memorial Cup.

The expected forward lines for Friday's game are:

Alex Tanguay - Vincent Lecavalier - Carter Ashton
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Stephane Veilleux - Paul Szczechura - Richard Panik
Zenon Konopka - Ryan Craig - Blair Jones

Joining Hedman on the blueline for a second straight game are David Hale, Kurtis Foster, and Mike Lundin. Mattias Ohlund will be making his Lightning debut and Lukas Krajicek rounds out the Bolt defensive corps. Joining Tokarski in net is Lightning #1 goalie Mike Smith in his first game action since a concussion prematurely ended his 2008-09 season.

Prospects To Highlight Lightning Exhibition Opener

The Tampa Bay Lightning take the ice Wednesday night in Dallas, TX for their first pre-season game against the Dallas Stars. Five of BoltProspects' Top 7 ranked prospects, including the top three ranked prospects, will help kick off the Lightning's 2009-10 hockey season. Highlighting the Tampa roster will be 2009 #2 overall pick, Swedish blueline phenom Victor Hedman. Hedman will be joined by fellow 2009 draftees Richard Panik and Jaroslav Janus. Forwards Steve Downie and Dana Tyrell along with defenseman Matt Lashoff round out the remaining top prospects that will be showcased in tonight's opener. Forwards Blair Jones, Martins Karsums, and Paul Szczechura represent three more Top 20 prospects that are fighting for roster spots on the Lightning's bottom lines with overagers Drew Miller and Zenon Konopka.

The expected forward lines for Wednesday's game are:

Drew Miller - Jeff Halpern - Blair Jones
Brandon Bochenski - Paul Szczechura - Dana Tyrell
Steve Downie - Brett McLean - Richard Panik
Todd Fedoruk - Zenon Konopka - Martins Karsums

Joining Lashoff and Hedman on the blueline are newcomers David Hale and Kurtis Foster along with former prospects Matt Smaby and Mike Lundin. Joining Janus in net is 2009 free agent acquisition Antero Niittymaki.

NHL Game Night 4/11: Lightning at Thrashers

All bad things must come to an end.

TB-2
ATL-6

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 15 shots for the loss before giving way to Karri Ramo, who allowed 2 goals on 11 shots the rest of the way. The Lightning have a signing decision with McKenna coming up this offseason, and I doubt allowing a goal to go through him and then being pulled was the final impression "Mack" wanted to make on management. Just my opinion, but we've probably seen the last of McKenna with the development of Riku Helenius in the AHL and the arrival of Dustin Tokarski to the pro ranks next season.

First Period
07:10 ATL Armstrong (21), (Bogosian, Enstrom)(PP)
16:30 ATL Perrin (7), (Reasoner, Exelby)(SH)
17:17 TB Pettinger (8), (Halpern, Quick)(PP)

Second Period
09:15 ATL Kovalchuk (43), (White, Hainsey)
14:09 ATL Hainsey (6), (Peverley)(PP)
16:32 ATL Armstrong (22), (Kozlov, Peverley)

Third Period
00:46 TB Stamkos (23), (unassisted)
06:20 ATL Stuart (5), (Reasoner)

The Lightning end up dropping from 31 wins and 71 points a year ago to 24 wins and 66 points this season. You know, for the amount of crap OK Hockey and their GM Brian Lawton talked garbage about the former GM, coaches, and scouts, I sure hope they man up and take accountability for the fact they did even worse this season, and then learn some valuable lessons (like defense and coaching are important, for instance). Post mortem to follow in the coming days. Draft lottery Tuesday night.

Noah Welch was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:58. He came on toward the end after an awful start to his stint with the Lightning. My preference would be to have Welch as a depth player in the organization offering veteran presence to the Norfolk Admirals next season. I'd love to see he and Richard Petiot wear the battleship next year.

Zenon Konopka was -1 with 7 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 9:05. He was also 57% on draws. He does offer energy to the fourth line in the form of being an agitator and fighter, but I wanted to see more on the forecheck from Konopka. I like a fourth line that chews the ends off the boards, personally.

David Koci was -1 in 6:01. Long term, I think the Lightning need to draft and cultivate somebody who can play 8-10 minutes a night and fight the other team's heavies. I'm not sure Koci is that guy.

Paul Szczechura was -1 with 4 shots, and 3 hits in 17:05. He was also 36% on draws. In the last week or two, I don't think there's another bubble guy who helped his stock more to make the team next season than Szczechura.

Martins Karsums was -1 with 1 shot in 11:26. I didn't see enough from Karsums to make me believe he shouldn't be ticketed for Norfolk next season, if he stays in North America.

Kevin Quick got his first NHL point, and assist, and was -1 with 1 shot in 14:57. There were shifts he looked overmatched tonight defensively and he reminded you that he's still got a couple of years in the making.

Matt Lashoff was -3 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 23:02. He'll want to burn the tape of this game, methinks.

Vladimir Mihalik was -1 with 2 blocked shots in 15:59. In his final callup of the year, his positioning and poise seemed to improve. However, you'd still like to see the assertiveness and aggression level go way up. He is just way too soft for a man his size right now. There's no excuse for anybody to ever physically beat him coming out from behind the net or the corners.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 4/9: Capitals at Lightning

Game outing by the young defense.

WSH-4
TB-2

Karri Ramo allowed 3 goals on 32 shots for the loss in his final start of the season.

First Period
00:36 TB Stamkos (22), (Konopka, St. Louis)
09:19 WSH Laich (21), (Backstrom, Green)(PP)

Second Period
05:37 WSH Laich (22), (Green, Nylander)
06:08 WSH Steckel (8), (Bradley, Aucoin)

Third Period
12:53 TB Pettinger (7), (Szczechura, Mihalik)
19:55 WSH Green (31), (unassisted)(EN)

Noah Welch had 3 hits and 3 blocked shots in 21:52. He's improved lately. I can't deny it.

Zenon Konopka had an assist and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:54. He was also 100% on draws. He had a strong first period, but got shuffled down to the lower lines later in the game.

David Koci had 2 penalty minutes in 6:30.

Paul Szczechura had 1 assist, 2 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 16:31. He was also 50% on draws. He's really putting a stamp on the end of this season to make his case to be on the team next year. He's been flying the past couple of games.

Martins Karsums was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 11:30. Karsums was the antithesis of Szczechura tonight, making the case why he belongs in Norfolk next season. He didn't get back in time on Washington's winning goal.

Kevin Quick had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:54. My gosh can he skate and my gosh does he have no fear with the puck on offense. Offensively, Kevin Quick's balls are so big their gravity effects the tides. I still say he needs to prove he can be a dominant player at the AHL season next year before he makes the jump in 2010-2011. However, he sure does remind you of Dan Boyle.

Vladimir Mihalik had 1 assist and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 13:14. He made a couple of nice plays, including a good pass that resulted in the Stamkos goal. He was in better position tonight, so his skating looked less awful. You could still time the release of his shot with a sun dial, though.

Geoff Kinrade was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 17:32. Sullivan even used him at the end of the game when the extra attacker was out. I was fairly impressed. He skates really well. Not Kevin Quick well, but well enough that you notice it. Contract?

The Panthers missed the playoffs again. Haaaa haaaa!

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 4/7: Penguins at Lightning

This team could be incredible if Lawton could find some defense without blowing up some other part of the team.

PIT-6
TB-4

Karri Ramo allowed 5 goals on 30 shots for the loss. Despite allowing 5 goals, he actually didn't play all that badly. Two of Pittsburgh's goals came on breakaways and a third came on an uncovered player allowed to move in on Ramo all alone down the slot. The game winning goal was a case where Ramo was clearly interfered with after stopping the initial shot on the breakaway. Another goal came on a feed that went through the box on the PP down low to give Sid Crosby a clean look on Ramo moving laterally. Other than Cooke's goal to start the third period, which wasn't a bad goal so much as an untimely one, there's nothing I would fault Karri with. The decision is the 41st of Ramo's career, graduating him from prospect status here at BP.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
05:00 PIT Fedotenko (16), (Staal, Kennedy)
10:08 PIT Crosby (31), (Malkin, Kunitz)(PP)
11:12 PIT Crosby (32), (Kunitz, Malkin)(PP)

Third Period
01:08 PIT Cooke (12), (Staal, Letang)
04:31 TB Halpern (6), (Szczechura)(SH)
08:59 TB St. Louis (30), (Stamkos, Krajicek)
09:43 TB Szczechura (4), (unassisted)
11:43 PIT Sykora (25), (Fedotenko)
19:19 TB Halpern (7), (Karsums, Bochenski)
19:47 PIT Staal (22), (unassisted)(EN)

I give credit to the coaches and the players that no one laid down in the third period. It would've been damned easy to quit, but the Lightning came back and really gave the Pens a run for their money. They were one missed goaltender interference call away from getting to overtime. So, the heart is there, and for the most part the offensive potential is there. What's really lacking right now is two things: defense and penalty killing. The defense will get better by virtue of a healthy Andrej Meszaros and Paul Ranger. The penalty killing can't possibly get any worse. I don't know the stats, but the PK has been absolutely rancid the second half of this season.

Ryan Malone broke his hand blocking a shot in this game, making him the fifth key Lightning player to be shelved with a serious injury. He had already proven that last year wasn't a flash in the pan by potting his 26th goal. I give him credit. He's won me over. The injury may open up an opportunity for someone from Norfolk to get a two game cup of coffee. Blair Jones? Justin Keller? Juraj Simek?

Lets go Avs.

Noah Welch had 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:13 against the organization who drafted him.

Zenon Konopka was -1 with 2 hits in 9:58 and was 60% on draws. 9:58? Seemed like a lot more, in a good way. There are games where Konopka is nothing more than a circus clown, and then there are games like tonight where he plays hockey and he's a difference maker. He was a split second away from landing a shoulder-to-chin hit on Matt Cooke that would've made him a hero in Tampa Bay forever, and he about chewed the ends off the boards on the forecheck. Very well done.

Matt Smaby was +1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 22:56. Tonight was Smaby's 41st game of the season, meaning he joins Ramo as a freshly minted Bolt Prospects Alumni.

David Koci had 3 hits and 17 penalty minutes in 6:00 of ice time. His fight against Eric Godard seemed like the emotional tipping point of this game. Again, very well done.

Paul Szczechura had 1 goal, 1 assist, and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, and 4 shots in 16:00. He also was 33% on draws. I don't know what it is about Pittsburgh, but when Szczechura sees that jersey he seems to duck into the nearest phone booth and turn into Superman. I still don't think Szczechura is in his best shape, but he was flying tonight. That's the best game he's played in months, and the kind of game he needs to get on tape if he wants to make the team next season.

Martins Karsums had 1 assist, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:23. He was fairly invisible, despite the impressive stat line.

Matt Lashoff was -1 with 1 hit in 17:23. I don't know if he got hurt or if the coaching staff was sending a message.

Vladimir Mihalik had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:41. Mobility is obviously an issue with Vladdy, but his lack of decisiveness remains a bigger concern to me.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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