The showdown for the #6 and #7 defenseman jobs for the Tampa Bay Lightning looks like it will begin in earnest on Saturday night against the Caps.
According to Carter Gaddis on Erik Erlendsson's blog, the night will mark this year's preseason debut for the pairing of Brad Lukowich and Matt Smaby as well as for the pairing of Dan Jancevski and Doug Janik. From the outside looking in, it appears Smaby, Jancevski, and Janik are all vying for one the two open vacancies. One will be left out, but whom?
Saturday's lines and pairings:
According to Tampabaylightning.com, day one of camp scrimmages ended in a 1-1 tie between Team Black and Team White. Team White's goal was scored by winger Kyle Wanvig off assists from Brad Richards and Doug Janik while Team Black's goal was scored by Vincent Lecavalier off assists from Vaclav Prospal and Paul Ranger.
Wanvig and Janik continue to make a strong impression after good showings in camp during physical testing on Thursday and Friday. Erik Erlendsson also notes in his blog that Wanvig was displaying a strong physical presence throughout the game to go with his goal. The Lightning's top-12 forwards appeared to be set going into training camp, but Wanvig appears to be playing his way into the discussion of who will be the first forward called up at the very least.
Erlendsson notes none of the defensemen vying for the team's #6 and #7 defenseman jobs separated from the pack, and that all three goaltenders played well with wunderkind Karri Ramo stopping 16 of 16 shots faced including a penalty shot by rookie pro Mike Lundin.
And, just like that, the Lightning no longer control their division title destiny.
Johan Holmqvist allowed 4 goals on 24 shots for the loss while Marc Denis allowed 3 goals on 5 shots in relief. Filip Kuba had the only Lightning goal off assists from Doug Janik and Nick Tarnasky. The Lightning now trail Atlanta by six points in the division with a game in hand after the Thrashers' overtime win against Buffalo today. Just 4 points separate 6th place Tampa Bay and the 9th place New York Islanders now, putting the Lightning in the uncomfortable position of not only seeing their division title hopes slip away, but also seeing that making the playoffs may become a difficult task as well.
Bad, bad, bad time of year for a three game losing streak.
Washington 5:31, Tomas Fleischmann 3 (Boyd Gordon)
Washington 13:38, Tomas Fleischmann 4 (Kris Beech, Milan Jurcina)
Washington 1:14, Alexander Semin 35 (power play) (Chris Clark, Brian Pothier)
Washington 6:45, Alexander Semin 36 (Tomas Fleischmann)
Washington 8:18, Alexander Semin 37 (Kris Beech, Matt Bradley)
Tampa Bay 17:44, Filip Kuba 11 (Doug Janik, Nick Tarnasky)
Washington 10:34, Alexandre Giroux 2 (unassisted)
Washington 17:55, Boyd Gordon 5 (Tomas Fleischmann, Shaone Morrisonn)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Holmer and the road warriors just smacked the champs in the mouth in their own barn. I like it.
Johan Holmqvist pitches a 31 save shutout for the win. The shutout is the first of Johan's career and he improves his season record to 17-10-0. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier continued on their MVP caliber tears through the NHL with 1 goal and 1 assist each. Vaclav Prospal added 2 assists of his own as well. The other Lightning goals came from Ryan Craig and Doug Janik. Eric Perrin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards added individual helpers.
The well oiled war machine that is the Lightning on the road extended their franchise record winning streak away from the SP Times Forum to 7 straight games. More importantly, the Lightning have caught the Carolina Hurricanes at 58 points with the Lightning still holding a game in hand. And, by virtue of Atlanta's 5-2 loss to the Islanders tonight the Lightning are now with single digits of the division leader at 8 points behind. The Lightning still hold a game in hand on Atlanta and, more importantly, have two more head-to-head games left on the schedule for a total of six potential points the Lightning can pick up quickly. I am reminded of 2002-2003 when the Lightning ran down the Washington Capitals from behind like a hungry lion runs down a misfortunate antelope.
If the Lightning can stay focused and remain hot for the next couple of weeks, then the spotlight should fall squarely on GM Jay Feaster. Feaster knows as we all do that the team is just a deal or two away from being a serious title contender. It will be incumbent on him to pull the trigger and hit the right targets to give this team the reinforcements they need. If he does, look out. Dare we use the pun, Lightning could strike twice?
Rookie Blair Jones had 5:39 of ice time tonight and was 40% on draws with 2 penalty minutes (and looked about 1,000,000% more comfortable than last time out).
Tampa Bay 15:12, Ryan Craig 12 (power play) (Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 19:23, Doug Janik 2 (Eric Perrin, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 2:49, Vincent Lecavalier 32 (Ruslan Fedotenko, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 9:29, Martin St. Louis 32 (power play) (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards)
Game sheet from NHL.com.