Crush of reporters greets Lightning
Just a rough count, but it appeared there were about 50 reporters at the Lightning's morning skate on Tuesday, six with television cameras. Most were attending to speak to rookie Steven Stamkos, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Unionville, and was to play his first game at the Air Canada Centre.
Stamkos was treated well by the media; no accusatory questions about his lack of points or lack of playing time. It was kind of comical, though, to see the stakeout at his locker before he even got off the ice. There was such a crush of reporters, Chris Gratton had to change out of his uniform two stalls away from his assigned space, which was right next to Stamkos.
Stamkos reaction to the whole thing: "It was pretty cool."
There were other subjects as well. Vinny Prospal stood firm in the face of a Toronto reporter who pestered him about "grumbling" in the Lightning locker room. That became a point of interest after Hockey Night in Canada's Al Strachan reported that owner Len Barrie was diagramming plays in the locker room during one of the two season-opening games in Prague (a report the team has been very strong in condemning) and that his source was a player.
Anyway, Prospal was polite but shot down every attempt to get him to say players are unhappy.
"I don't think there's anything like that," he said. "We have a good group of guys here. We get along great. We have no problems with this group. We've just got to get some wins."
Coach Barry Melrose again said the report was "a lie."
"Canada used to be a country where you couldn't lie," Melrose continued. "I was brought up in Saskatchewan, and if I lied, my father would kick my butt. But, obviously, that's not the case in Ontario, where you can say anything you want without repercussions. ... I guess there's not much journalistic integrity anywhere in Canada."
But back to Stamkos. Melrose said he will try even harder to get the No. 1 draft choice more ice time by perhaps putting him on both power play units; as a forward on the first unit and perhaps on the point on the second.
"we're trying to get him his first goal, too." Melrose said. "We want to get him fired up and going, too. That will give the people something else to write about when he scores his first goal."
As for the game: Mike Smith, who enters with a league-best .941 save percentage, will make his fourth straight start in goal. ... Matt Pettinger will start on left wing on Vinny Lecavalier's line. Prospal was moved off that line and will center for Gratton and Mark Recchi. ... Forwards Ryan Craig and Radim Vrbata, both out with groins, skated but were scratched. Defenseman Janne Niskala also was scratched. ... The Lightning has scored just four first-period goals but has allowed just one, that's best in the league. But Tampa Bay has scored only two in the second and allowed seven.