Darche makes a statement
Not many may have heard of Mathieu Darche before training camp, but the 30-year-old is doing his best to make his name more familiar to Lightning coaches and management. he left wing scored three goals for the White team in Tuesday's 3-0 victory, Tampa Bay's final scrimmage. They were Darche's first points in four scrimmages, but coach John Tortorella said Darche has been impressive throughout camp with his energy, positioning and the responsibility he's shown on defense. And though Tortorella said Darche has a "long road'' if he is to make the opening-day roster, he did not rule out Darche, who will play in Wednesday's preseason opener on Chris Gratton's line, being able to do it. "With our minor-league system the way it is, we look for players not only to start the year for us, but we're looking for people we can call up too. That's the spot he's in right now and he's equipped himself very well. So, he's going to get a game and we'll see where it goes from there.''
Darche also had a hand in what looked to be a scary injury to left wing Andre Roy. Darche, who works out with Roy in the summer, pushed his buddy and Roy skated backwards into the side boards. The problem was the door to the bench was open and Roy's tail bone smacked into the point of the boards. Roy went down with a painful cry and was on the ice for several minutes. He skated off under his own power and later said he had a bad bruise on his tail bone. The Lightning called it a contusion. Roy said he was going for precautionary x-rays.
Also hurt was Jan Hlavac, who said he had x-rays and an MRI test on his right instep. Hlavac on Monday took a FIlip Kuba wrist shot off the foot and had to go to the bench, though he returned quickly. But Hlavac said the foot swelled up overnight and he could not walk on it.
I'll update both injuries as the info become available.
But back to Darche, who went to high school with Marty St. Louis and Eric Perrin. In fact, Darche said it was Perrin who advised him to sign with Tampa Bay, which signed Darche as a free agent. He had 35 goals and 80 points in 76 games last season with AHL Worcester in the Sharks system. He has a goal and two points and is minus-11 in 28 NHL games.
"Eric told me, 'If you get a chance, sign in Tampa. They don't look at anything, not age,' '' said Darche, signed as a free agent. "So when July came, they were the first team that called and I didn't hesitate."
"We've always been honest and fair as tohow we go about our business,'' Tortorella said. "Players appreciate that, especially guys who get caught up in what the contracts are, one-way, two-way, how much money they make. I think players know they're going to get a fair whack at making a National Hockey league team minus all the political things going on around some of the contracts of these players.''
Tortorella said Darche will start Wednesday's game against the Stars on Chris Gratton's line but could see time with Brad Richards' line which, without Hlavac, will start Michel Ouellet and Andreas Karlsson.
Marc Denis will start and is expected to play the entire game in goal. Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Vinny Prospal and Dan Boyle will not play. Not the most usual thing to see a goalie play an entire game but Denis has played so well, the staff wants to see if he can maintain that focus for an entire game.
SCRIMMAGE: The White beat the Black in the four-game series with two victories and two ties. ... Richards led all scorers with four points, all assists, getting one in each game.Lecavalier and Prospal had one goal each. St. Louis had zero points, though that line generally skated well. ... Denis certainly earned his start Wednesday. He stopped 19 of 20 shots Tuesday and 54 of 56 overall for a .964 save percentage and a 1.12 goals-against average. Ramo also was terrific, stopping all 13 shots Tuesday and 58 of 60 overall for a .967 save percentage and a 1.08 goals-against average. Johan Holmqvist stopped 52 of 58 shots overall and had an .897 save percentage and a 3.10 goals-against average. So, the goalie derby is interesting. We'll see what the real story is once the preseason games begin.
A LAST NOTE: Former Lightning goalie Sean Burke retired after 19 seasons. His career highlights include being the runner-up for the King Clancy Trophy for excellent play and humanitarian contributions in 1993-94; playing in the 1989, 1995 and 2002 NHL All-Star Games; and, finishing as a finalist in voting for the Lester B. Pearson Award in 2001-02. Burke finishes his career with 820 games-played, which ranks him 12th all-time amongst goalies, 29th all time on the career shutouts list (38) and 19th all time in career wins as a goaltender (324).