DIRK SHADD | Times
"We're running out of games," Jon Cooper said. "Now, all of a sudden we have games in hand, and this is a game in hand."
With just 17 games left in the regular season and Tampa Bay just four points ahead of the ninth team in the Eastern Conference -- the top eight make the playoffs -- Lightning coach Jon Cooper said tonight's game against the Panthers is "pretty pivotal."
"We're running out of games," Cooper said. "Now, all of a sudden we have games in hand, and this is a game in hand."
It also is against a Panthers team that is on a 3-10-0 streak, has allowed 116 road goals, worst in the East and has the worst power play and penalty kill in the league. Tampa Bay is not doing much better at the moment. The Lightning is on a 3-8-2 streak and is on a 3-for-37 streak on the power play, 1-for-16 in its past seven home games.
That is why Cooper said, "You can put a junior team up to play us now and we definitely wouldn't overlook it. That's definitely not an issue."
The issue for Cooper has been some loose play in the defensive zone. Tampa Bay has allowed an average 3.3 goals during its skid. For the season it has allowed an average 2.6. …Full Story
Tampa Bay Lightning players and staff got their heads shaved Wednesday to raise funds for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation as part of the 5th annual Bright House Networks Cut for a Cure Charity Challenge.Full Story
On Jan. 19, Lightning rookie defenseman Mark Barberio scored two goals in Tampa Bay's victory over the Hurricanes. After the game he revealed he told his teammates that he would cut his hair when he scored his first NHL goal.
It took three months, but Barberio finally did the deed as part of the Lightning's Cut For A Cure event at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in which several Lightning players and staff had their hair cut. Barberio's hair also was donated to Locks of Love, an organization that uses donated hair to create hair prosthetics for children who have lost their hair for any medical reason. The minimum length of hair needed to make a donation is 10 inches. Barberio said that was his length.
"A lot lighter," was how Barberio described how he felt after his hair was cut. "It's two years of my life without cutting my hair, to buzz it off in one shot was a little nervous," Barberio said. "But to do it for a good cause it's great." Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
The bare wall that previously held the Marty St. Louis banner.
The giant Marty St. Louis banner was removed from the Tampa Bay Times Forum plaza today.
What would you put up in its place?
St. Louis, perhaps the greatest player in Lightning history and a Tampa Bay mainstay for 13 seasons, was traded to the New York Rangers last week at his request for Ryan Callahan, a first-round pick in 2015 and a second-round choice in 2014.
To the right of the vacant spot on the wall is a banner depicting Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.Full Story
Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, as part of the Lightning's celebration of the 10th anniversary of its Stanley Cup victory, will teach at Hockey 101 seminar Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The seminar is part of the Sunday With Stanley event that begins at 11 a.m at Thunder Alley (west plaza). It is free an open to the public.
Members of the 2004 Stanley Cup team will begin greeting fans at 11:30. Doors to the Times Forum will open at noon. There will be autograph and photo opportunities with the Stanley Cup.
Vinik's Hockey 101 seminar will begin at 1 p.m. He will be joined by former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk.
"We have a great weekend planned for our fans and I'm excited for the opportunity to personally lead a Hockey 101 seminar for those interested in learning more about the game," Vinik said in a release. "I love the game of hockey and I want more fans in the Tampa Bay area to share our love of this terrific sport."
A replay of the Lightning's Game 7 Cup win over the Flames will be shown at about 3 p.m. There also will be an open skate until 5 p.m. Two father/son clinics will be offered, beginning at 5:15 p.m.
To RSVP for the skate and clinics, go to tampabaylightning.com. …Full Story
Soon, Phil Esposito's statue won't be the only one in front of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Lightning announced Monday that it will honor former captain Dave Andreychuk with a statue on Ford Thunder Alley. They will unveil the statue in a pre-game ceremony at 6:30 p.m. before playing the Stars April 5. It will air live on CW44.
Andreychuk, now the team's vice president of corporate and community affairs, said he found out a couple months ago.
"Obviously it's a great honor," Andreychuk said. "I was overwhelmed."
The life-size bronze statue of Andreychuk will be located at the entrance to Ford Thunder Alley, just northeast of the intersection at Channelside Drive and Morgan Streets. The statue will depict Andreychuk hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head after the Lightning defeated the Calgary Flames in Game 7 during the 2004 finals. The Andreychuk statue will stand 9-feet tall and weigh approximately 600 pounds. It is being created by Steven Dickey, the renowned artist and sculptor that designed the Phil Esposito statue which graces the entrance to the Times Forum.
Andreychuk said the statue "symbolizes a moment for us," and is "something that the whole community should be proud of." …Full Story
Lightning star Steven Stamkos didn't participate in today's morning skate, but there's no cause for concern. He's playing tonight against the Coyotes.
With Stamkos having played just two games since returning from a broken right tibia, he said he's going to work with the training staff on taking a day, or skate, off to manage the recovery. Along with Sunday's team off day, he's got some extra rest.
Though Stamkos has no points in his first two games back, he's been playing well, logging more than 21 minutes each game, and a combined six shots on goal. He's also won more than 65-percent of his faceoffs.
"It's going to come," Stamkos said. "I've just got to stick with it. As much as I wanted to be back where it was before the injury, it might take some time. I'm hoping to gradually build that up."
Coach Jon Cooper said he's not surprised Stamkos has been able to perform well despite having missed 45 games, but the biggest things he needs to improve are is timing and conditioning. …Full Story
Goalie Mike Smith returns to Tampa Bay tonight for the first time since signing with the Coyotes after the 2011 season.
Former Lightning goalie Mike Smith got to catch up with some former teammates Sunday night, the eve of his return to Tampa Bay for the first time since signing with the Coyotes after the 2011 season.
And in a gathering that included RW Ryan Malone, C Steven Stamkos, RW Teddy Purcell and RW B.J. Crombeen, Smith said there was no question who paid the tab.
“Obviously Stammer,” he said, smiling.
Smith, 31, said he isn’t seeking payback Monday night against the Lightning, whom he played for 3 1/2 seasons that included a humbling demotion to the minors his final year. He had a lot of great memories and life-long friends in Tampa, but says he’s a much different goalie now. Smith, given the chance to be the No. 1 goalie Phoenix and signed to a six-year, $34 million deal, has thrived, even winning an Olympic gold medal for Team Canada in the Sochi Olympics. …Full Story
The Lightning added to its depth Sunday, signing free-agent forward Yanni Gourde. Gourde will be on an AHL contract the rest of the season and on a two-way NHL contract for the 2014-15 seasons. …Full Story
Rookie RW Nikita Kucherov admits he’s in a scoring slump, and that his confidence has dipped a bit recently.
So with the Lightning facing a big Bruins team Saturday, associate coach Rick Bowness said they made Kucherov a healthy scratch, hoping he can learn a lot from watching upstairs.
Kucherov burst onto the scene in scoring a goal in the first shot of his first shift of his NHL debut Nov. 25. But the offensively-gifted forward has tallied just one goal since Jan. 19, with 17 shots in his last 13 games, a stretch many young players go through.
“He’s a highly skilled rookie who hasn’t found the back of the net for a little bit and you can see him squeezing the stick a little bit,’’ Bowness said. “And this is a big physical team and it’s hard to find any room out there so if there is a night he can sit back and watch, this is the game. And one of the benefits of sitting above is you realize that sometimes there really is more time out there than you feel on the ice.” …Full Story
Lightning defenseman prospect Slater Koekkoek is done for the season due to a right shoulder injury, general manager Steve Yzerman confirmed.
Koekkoek, the 10th pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, had his left shoulder surgically-repaired the last two seasons. He'll be re-evaluated on Monday, Yzerman said.
Koekkoek had 15 goals and 38 assists in 61 games for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League this season.Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Steven Stamkos said his body responded "better than I expected," feeling no pain Friday after playing 21 minutes Thursday against the Sabres.
For the Lightning, there were many things to like about Thursday's game, despite the 3-1 loss to the Sabres.
First of all, new captain Steven Stamkos felt - and looked - good in his first game in four months after recovering from a broken leg. Stamkos said his body responded "better than I expected," feeling no pain Friday after playing 21 minutes the night before.
"I definitely felt like I played a game yesterday," he quipped.
But while coach Jon Cooper liked what he saw from Stamkos, and new forward Ryan Callahan, he felt what was missing the most Thursday was traffic in front of the net. They peppered Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth with 44 shots, but felt he got to see most of them.
That's why Tampa Bay worked on its net front for most of Friday's practice, knowing it'll be vital in Saturday's matchup with the first place Bruins, which have beaten the Lightning in all three meetings this season by a combined score of 11-1. The Lightning has lost eight of its last 11, dropping to fifth in the Eastern Conference, just four points ahead of ninth-place Columbus.
And after a whirlwind and emotional few days, with the trade of Marty St. Louis behind them, it's gut check time. …Full Story
The Lightning started a new era Thursday night with a new captain.
Star center Steven Stamkos, making his triumphant return from a broken leg, came off the bench for the starting lineup wearing the "C" on his sweater, receiving a standing ovation before the game against the Sabres.
Stamkos, 24, was announced the new captain, taking over for Marty St. Louis, who was traded Wednesday to the Rangers.
"Steven Stamkos was destined to be the leader of our team," coach Jon Cooper said. "The fact it's happening now just puts us one step closer to achieving our ultimate goal and that is trying to win the Stanley Cup."
Stamkos is the 10th captain in franchise history, a move that surprised nobody in the Tampa Bay Times Forum.Full Story
So, there was Marty St. Louis on Wednesday sitting on the bench at Madison Square Garden in a Rangers jersey. Even he was struck by how "weird" that was.
After 13 seasons with the Lightning, St. Louis, the organization's greatest player, was traded on Wednesday for Ryan Callahan and a first- and a conditional second-round draft choice.
"You know, it was hard," St. Louis said. "Everything happened real quick, trying to rush for a flight (to New York), get ready for a game, new gear. It was definitely tough and weird."
He said the decision to ask for a trade to the Rangers also was tough. And while being left off the initial Olympic roster for Team Canada was difficult, it was just part of the equation that pushed him to request a trade.
"My family had a huge part in it," St. Louis said
St. Louis said he always thought that as his kids got older he would want to relocate to the Northeast. He has a home in Greenwich, Conn., and his wife is from that area. …Full Story
The Times' Drew Harwell told you back in October that Lightning owner Jeff Vinik listed his Boston mansion for a whopping $17 million.
Look at these photos from Curbed's Mansion Watch, and you'll understand why.Full Story
Four-plus months later, however, the house has yet to find a buyer. Which has meant a $2.5-million reduction in the asking price, to $14.5-million, Curbed reports. Even then, it's the second-priciest in Weston.
Find more background on the house here.