Vinny Lecavalier will be a healthy scratch for the Flyers again as they open the season tonight against the Lightning.
Vinny Lecavalier hasn't played for the Lightning for two years now, but he says it's still a special feeling getting back on the Amalie Arena ice.
"It reminds you of so many things," he said. "Pretty cool."
Lecavalier. 35, was former Lightning captain, the face of the franchise, winning a Cup here in 2004. That's why it makes it especially tough for Lecavalier to be a healthy scratch for the Flyers again as they open the season tonight against the Lightning. Lecavalier, scratched last season (17 games) for the first time in his career, found out 10 days ago he wouldn't be playing.
"The toughest thing is not physically being out there and playing with the puck, it's mentallly," Lecavalier said. "It can't creep up on you, I still have that confidence that if I'm put in a situation, I know I can still play the game. I believe in myself, and that's all that matters honestly. It is hard. I want to play." …Full Story
TOM JONES | Times
Lightning players prep for the season opener during the morning skate Thursday at Amalie Arena.
There will be a little pomp and circumstance tonight, with the Lightning unveiling its Eastern Conference championship banner at Amalie Arena.
It's opening night for Tampa Bay, coming off its remarkable run to the Stanley Cup Final, and there's a different feel as the team prepares to face the Flyers.
"Two years ago, it was a little bit more of us against the world type of attitude that nobody really cared about us," coach Jon Cooper said. "Now it's different because it's eyes-wide open now. We're not sneaking up on anyone this year."
With 11 of the first 16 games on the road, the Lightning emphasized the importance of a strong start, if it wants to even make the playoffs.
"This is the hardest opening month we've had," goalie Ben Bishop said. "We need to be in teh playoff picture at the end."
Cooper and captain Steven Stamkos said there will be a sense of accomplishment, some pride, when the banner is unveiled. But Stamkos believes it'll be short and sweet, quickly reminiscing before refocusing.
"Move on," he said. "And hope to win a game tonight." …Full Story
Courtesy of Paul Kennedy, Fox Sports Sun
Rays pitchers Matt Moore, left, and Jake Odorizzi were special guests at Lightning practice Wednesday morning.
Rays pitchers Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi were special guests at Lightning practice Wednesday morning, and there was one thing clear.
"I think they should probably stick to baseball," All-Star center Tyler Johnson joked.
Moore and Odorizzi got dressed in full Lightning gear, spending about an hour on the ice after practice. At the beginning, it was an adjustment, Moore staying close to the boards to prevent a fall. Odorizzi, who grew up watching some hockey, looked more comfortable, trying to take slap shots near the end. They both enjoyed the experience, saying it gave them even more respect for what hockey players can do.
"It's probably a lot like golf," Moore said. "If you don't play hockey by the age of 25, don't start."
There's been a great support between the two Tampa Bay professional teams, with several Rays becoming Bolts Social (Media) Captain; Evan Longoria will serve in that role for Thursday's opener. Several Lightning players took batting practice at the Trop in June, with Alex Cobb also skating after Lightning practice last season.
"You just give them the same advice I give my 5-year-old," coach Jon Cooper said. "Bend your legs, (butt) out, hope you don't fall."
DIRK SHADD | Times
Lightning center Tyler Johnson returned to practice Wednesday.
Lightning center Tyler Johnson returned to practice Wednesday, a good sign he might be available for Thursday's season opener.
Johnson suffered an undisclosed injury in the second period of Saturday's game and didn't return. He didn't practice Monday in Estero.
But Johnson looked good in Wednesday's skate, participating in all drills and rushes with his Triplets line.
"I feel great," Johnson said. "Ready to go."
Everyone was accounted for at practice, including Cedric Paquette (left foot), Alex Killorn (undisclosed) and Nikita Kucherov (lower body). Coach Jon Cooper said every player should be available Thursday, with the only concern Paquette's conditioning.
Lines were Drouin-Stamkos-Callahan/Triplets/Killorn-Filppula-Condra/Boyle-Namestnikov-brown. Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Lightning center Tyler Johnson, who is single, strongly denied a woman's claims on Monday's Jimmy Kimmmel show said she cheated on her boyfriend with Johnson.
When it comes to being a professional athlete, nothing appears private anymore.
And with social media, not everything is true.
Lightning center Tyler Johnson found that out the hard way. A woman during a segment on Monday's Jimmy Kimmmel show said the "most impressive" thing she's done is cheat on her boyfriend. And, she alleged after prodding, it was with Johnson.
Johnson, 25, who is single, strongly denied such claims.
"I have no idea who she is or why what was said was said, " Johnson wrote in a text message. "People can talk about that, but (that) doesn't mean it's true."
Kimmel, the late night talk show host, often does a segment where he questions people on the street on certain topics. With Nobel Prizes awarded this past week, the subject for Monday's segment was the "most impressive thing" they've done.
Judging from the other participants, it all seemed like a joke. One man said he saved a cat, by kicking it. Another woman said she biked across the ocean on a "water bicycle." So take this all with a grain of salt. …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Slater Koekkoek had an impressive camp, the former first round pick showing he belonged in a three-game NHL stint last season.
The Ligtning is finalizing its roster, sending several players down to AHL Syracuse to get down to 23 players.
Forwards Mike Angelidis and Jonathan Marchessault, who both cleared waivers, were reassigned to the Crunch, as was goalie Kristers Gudlevskis and defenseman Luke Witkowski.
As of now, it appears that Kevin Poulin will be the temporary backup goalie to Ben Bishop, and that Slater Koekkoek and Nikita Nesterov are on the team. Things could change before tonight's 5 p.m. deadline, but that's where Tampa Bay is at now.
Coach Jon Cooper said they were leaning towards carrying seven defensemen, and currently they have eight. The fact goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (vascular surgery) is on injured reserve gets Tampa Bay down to 23.
Koekkoek had an impressive camp, the former first round pick showing he belonged in a three-game NHL stint last season. A left-shot, Koekkoek is a strong puck mover, as is Nesterov, who served as seventh defenseman in the lineup during the playoffs, getting ice time on the power play.
DIRK SHADD | Times
Andrei Vasilevskiy, encouraged in his recovery from early-September vascular surgery, hopes to return to the NHL by the end of October.
It sounds like whomever the Lightning picks to be the temporary backup goalie may not be needed very long.
That's because goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is encouraged in his recovery from early-September vascular surgery, hopes to return to the NHL by the end of October. Vasilevskiy, who had surgery to remove a blood clot from his left collarbone Sept. 3, did an on-ice workout with with goalie coach Frantz Jean before Monday's practice, facing shots from close range.
"I'm feeling great, almost ready to go," Vasilevskiy said. "I can do almost everything I want. Every move."
The only thing holding Vasilevskiy back is the fact he's still on blood thinners, which is restricting him from facing shots in the left shoulder area. But Vasilevskiy has an appointment with Dr. Karl Illig, who performed the surgery, on Oct. 21, with the chance he's cleared then to return to full practice. Vasilevskiy thinks he'll need a couple games with AHL Syracuse for a conditioning assignment before returning to his expected role as Ben Bishop's backup.
"That's it," he said. "Season starts for me." …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Wing Alex Killorn returned to practice Monday.
While wing Alex Killorn returned to practice Monday, All-Star center Tyler Johnson remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury suffered Saturday against the Panthers.
Killorn, who also had an undisclosed injury Saturday, was on the ice at Germain Arena, along with fellow injured Lightning forwards Nikita Kucherov (lower body) and Cedric Paquette (left foot). Paquette was in his first full practice since getting hurt Sept. 26, though he did not participate in line rushes.
Johnson played only two shifts on Saturday before exiting. He's considered day-to-day. Vladislav Namestnikov took Johnson's spot on the Triplets line today.
It should be an interesting day, with players around the league put on waivers today, and final rosters due Tuesday afternoon. Forward Jonathan Marchessault is not at practice, likely to be put on waivers with hopes he can return to AHL Syracuse.
Mike Angelidis, Slater Koekkoek, as well as both backup goalie candidates Kevin Poulin and Kristers Gudlevskis, are at practice. So is starter Ben Bishop. …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Get an up-close look at what some of the Lightning players are like off the ice in our exclusive new video series.
With the Lightning season opening up on Thursday, the Times decided to give readers an up-close look at what some of the players are like off the ice.
How good of a handyman is wing Ryan Callahan? What "Friends" star did Brian Boyle meet while in New York? Who was the "Big Bad Wolf" 'for Halloween? How did Tyler Johnson meet Wayne Gretzky, and how was dinner at the Great One's house? How exactly did Alex Killorn get into Harvard? What sparked Victor Hedman's passion for flying planes?
Find out to all these questions, and more, with a video project put together by Times photographer Dirk Shadd and myself. Enjoy!Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Tyler Johnson played just two shifts in the second period before leaving Saturday.
The Lightning got some encouraging news on the injury front Sunday, as All-Star center Tyler Johnson and wing Alex Killorn are both considered just day-to-day with undisclosed injuries, general manager Steve Yzerman said.
Both got hurt in Saturday's exhibition finale against the Panthers in Sunrise, with Johnson playing just two shifts in the second period before leaving. Killorn played only a couple shifts in the third period before exiting.
Wing Nikita Kucherov (lower body) was also held out of Saturday's game as a precaution, despite participating in the morning skate. Center Cedric Paquette (left foot) has been day-to-day for a week, though coach Jon Cooper expects him to return to practice Monday in Estero.
The season opener is Thursday night against the Flyers.
"I'm hoping that everyone will be ready for Thursday," Yzerman said. …Full Story
Wing Nikita Kucherov was back at Saturday's morning skate, and plans to play tonight in the exhibition finale against the Panthers, which is an encouraging sign for the Lightning.
Kucherov had suffered a lower-body injury early in Thursday's 3-2 win over Dallas, briefly trying to test it before leaving the game for good. He said there's still some pain, but it shouldn't hold him back heading into the season.
"I felt like I couldn't play because my leg wasn't good, so that's why I decided to not force it," Kucherov said. "I'm just glad it wasn't a knee or something else."
In other injury news, center Cedric Paquette continues to be sidelined with a left foot injury suffered last Saturday in Dallas, but Cooper said the gritty forward will return to full participation in Monday's practice in Estero. And there's no concern over Paquette's injury impacting the start of the season. "I wouldn't think so," Cooper said. …Full Story
Wing Nikita Kucherov gave Lightning fans a thrill Thursday night in scoring on the game's first shift.
But then Kucherov gave Tampa Bay a scare when he left the game five minutes later after getting hit hard into the boards by Dallas LW Remi Elie. Kucherov would not return, with the Lightning saying he suffered a lower-body injury.
After the hit, Kucherov was attended to by head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan before skating off under his own power. Soon Kucherov headed for the dressing room. Kucherov would come back midway through the period for a brief skate during a timeout, presumably to test the injury. But he must not have liked how he felt, going back to the room. It's hard to tell if Kucherov got hurt during hte hit, or on his goal, when he collided with goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Losing Kucherov would be a big blow to the Lightning, considering the Russian wing tied for second on the team in goals last season (29), ranking first in the league in plus-minus (plus-38). Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn each filled in on the Triplets line while Kucherov was out.Full Story
From an asset management point of view, putting Kevin Poulin on the roster keeps another goalie (Kristers Gudlevskis) in the system.
With just one week until opening night, the Lightning's backup goalie situation is still a mystery.
And it might be even after the Oct. 8 season opener against the Flyers.
Goalies Kristers Gudlevskis and Kevin Poulin, claimed off waivers Sunday from the Islanders, are the two remaining in-house candidates. But with starter Ben Bishop playing half the game tonight and the full game Saturday, neither will get much more of an opportunity to audition much.
There's also the possibility that the backup goalie isn't in camp yet, with Tampa Bay having the option of seeing what else is available. Jonas Gustavsson, for example, has played well while on a PTO with Boston, but if he leaves without a contract, he could be available.
Coach Jon Cooper insists they're not worried about the uncertainty.
"I don't think you have to make that decision at this point," Cooper said. "There's so many different scenarios. I don't think we can sit here and say just because the goalie we keep is the guy that's going to back up Bish. Someone may go to the American League, play some games and come up. We may bring someone else up. There's so many different scenarios that could go on." …Full Story
Cedric Paquette hopes to return to practice in a couple days and isn't worried this will impact his availability to open the season.
Lightning forward Cedric Paquette briefly returned to the ice after Thursday's skate.
Paquette is still feeling some pain from the blocked shot he took off his left foot in Saturday's game, an injury that caused a cut that required five stitches. But Paquette hopes to return to practice in a couple days and isn't worried this will impact his availability to open the season.
"I think next week it should be 100-percent," he said.
Paquette said the issue is how the cut is pressed against the skate, which is uncomfortable/annoying. But it's getting better each day, and he was encouraged considering how bad it looked Saturday night.
"I thought it was going to be worse than that," Paquette said. …Full Story
Normally, there shouldn't be much to read into preseason results in the NHL.
The regulars don't always play, especially together, with many prospects getting a look.
But captain Steven Stamkos admits he's at least concerned over how the Lightning has executed duddring the first four exhibition games (1-3-1), especially Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Penguins in Johnstown. And Tampa Bay has just two preseason games left, Thursday at home against Dallas and Saturday in Sunrise, before opening the regular season Oct. 8 against the Flyers.
“If we were playing well I wouldn’t be worried," Stamkos said., "But we are not playing very well right now and that’s concerning."
Bad passes. Gaffes in defensive zone coverage. Mistrust between forwards and defensemen. There's been plenty of reasons for it, but coach Jon Cooper said Tampa Bay is giving up way too many goals, 10 in the last two games. And, while Kristers Gudlevskis and Kevin Poulin (as well as recently-released Ray Emery) have played more than starter Ben Bishop, Cooper said it's not completely on the goaltending. …Full Story