Backup goalie situation in flux
Because Olie Kolzig's season is over, thanks to pending surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon in his left arm, Lightning general manager Brian Lawton has an interesting decision to make when it comes to the team's backup goaltender. Is it better to stick with Karri Ramo once he finishes serving his six-game AHL suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation last Friday, or perhaps sign Norfolk's Mike McKenna to an NHL contract and bring him up? There is even talk the Lightning will explore trading for a backup or, more likely, grabbing a goalie off re-entry waivers.
The most appealing option for Tampa Bay would be to get someone off re-entry waivers because it would halve the salary obligation with the player's previous team. A person of interest could be Curtis Sanford, recently demoted by the Canucks to AHL Manitoba. Sanford, 29, was 7-8-0 in 19 games for the Canucks with a 2.59 goals-against average, a .906 save percentage and a shutout. Don't know if the Lightning would be interested, just thinking out loud.
Lawton would not comment on any possible moves, but he did say the situation will sort itself out by early next week. In the interim, Riku Helenius, 20, who never has played an NHL game, is the backup. Nothing against Helenius, who at least will get a taste of what the NHL is about in his quick call-up duties, but with Tampa Bay facing a back-to-back tonight and Friday, and another Tuesday and Wednesday, a more experienced backup is necessary.
Why not just keep Ramo when his suspension is over? Because Lawton wants him to play, and if Ramo is with Tampa Bay, he, generally, will sit.
It is an interesting time for Ramo, 22. Lawton said he is still "bullish" on Ramo as a potential NHL starter. But Ramo has barely played in the past season and a half. Between injuries and call-ups last season, he played only 28 games. Between call-ups this season, he has played only 29, including 26 with Norfolk.
Lawton said the goal is to get him in 50 games this season.
"If we can get him 50 games, he starts to build the foundation," Lawton said. "It's steps. It is a pyramid effect. We'd like to see him prove that he's really elite down in the American League. ... We'd like to see him take that step and use it as a foundation to back up here, and use that foundation to move on to be a starter. I still think Karri Ramo has the makeup to be a starter. We're just looking at him as a baby, now."
How will it all shake out? Lawton said he is not sure.
"It's a tough call," he said. "I'm not trying to be vague. I just want to get all the information. Once we have it, then I make a decision."
Interesting sideline: Lawton said he had to have conversations with the NHL about allowing Ramo to suit up for Tampa Bay Tuesday against the Canadiens. As a rule, suspensions do not travel from league to league. But Lawton said the NHL generally prefers not to have suspended players from another league playing in NHL games.
"There's no official policy," Lawton said. "It's just one of those things."
Other stuff from this morning: Looks like rookie Steven Stamkos will have another one of his occasional games in which he sits. It also looks like Matt Smaby, who has missed six of the past seven games with a lower body injury, is back in the lineup, though coach Rick Tocchet made some noises about David Koci still being in the mix on defense. But I'm betting on Smaby. ... Tocchet had much praise for defenseman Lukas Krajicek and how he has stepped up the past eight games or so. "He really has shown me a lot," Tocchet said. "he's penalty killing, doing five-on-five. He's playing in all situations." ... Actually, Tocchet said most of the defense has played better during a time of great stress because of multiple injuries."Hey, listen, guys get injured," Tocchet said. "It's somebody's opportunity to take over, and Luke's done that." ... Tocchet reiterated he wants Kolzig to be around the team once he gets back on his feet after Saturday's surgery. That goes against some traditional models that say injured players should stay in the background so teammates aren't reminded constantly about injuries. "A guy like Kolzig, with his stature, when he's around he makes guys comfortable. And his knowledge really helps," Tocchet said. "That doesn't mean I kick guys out when they're hurt, but there's a time and place. Olie walking around two hours before a game talking to Smitty doesn't bother me at all." ... Why is the power play on a 7-for-21 clip the past five games? Tocchet said the players finally are consistently attacking the front of the net.