All of a sudden, Lashoff in the spotlight
Are you a glass half full person or half empty? Because how you look at things may color how you view what is going on with the Lightning defense. With power-play specialist Cory Murphy down, perhaps for the rest of the season, with a broken right foot (courtesyof a Vinny Lecavalier slap shot on Tuesday), it either deals a death blow to a blue line that is starved for an offensive spark, or it gives the Lightning a chance to look at Matt Lashoff and evaluate his pluses and minuses.
Lashoff, 22, was the key piece from the Bruins in the Mark Recchi deal. Beginning in Thursday's game with the Capitals, he will be the power-play quarterback, and not just for a few shifts, coach Rick Tocchet said. Lashoff is going to get a long look.
"The job is his now," Tocchet said after Wednesday's practice. "I don't want to put a lot of pressure on him so he doesn't think he has to score or make a great play the first couple of outings. He's going to have a regular time on it,to get used to it."
"It's a tough position to be in with guys going down," Lashoff said. "Murph has been great to me. He's been a great guy, and it's tough to see him go down. But it's an opportunity for me to step up and come to the table and bring what I can bring. It's part of the game that is an asset to me, my offensive ability. I have to take advantage of it."
Lashoff's success would not only be big for the team, but to show that the trade with the Bruins was a good one. Tampa Bay shipped out Recchi, one of its offensive bright spots this season, and a second-round draft pick for Lashoff and wing Martins Karsums. Karsums needs some polishing, for sure. But Lashoff was an investment in the Lightning's future. He has to come through for the trade to be viewed as a success.
The Greenbush, N.Y., native played 22:58 against the Maple Leafs and had a shot and a hit. He also was on the two power plays Tampa Bay had in the final 5:25 of the third period that failed to break a 3-3 tie. With Murphy on the point, the power play was on a 10-for-30 streak.
"It's not necessarily me going out and taking it all on my shoulders," Lashoff said. "It's just a matter of distributing the puck. Those are world-class players. It's just a matter of getting them the puck and making simple plays and getting the puck on net when the case permits itself."
As for Murphy, it is a tough break in a contract season. But with five goals and 15 points in 25 games with the Lightning, he has proved he is worth a look when contract time comes. Murphy said he would have liked to have the rest of the season"to do a little more."
It's time for Lashoff to do as much as he can.
Tocchet said he expects a defenseman to be brought up from AHL Norfolk, but was not specific. Left wing David Koci played defense during practice but Tocchet said it is unfair to keep bouncing him back and forth between positions.