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Defenseman Matt Gilroy rewarded with spot on Tampa Bay Lightning's top power-play unit



The Tampa Bay Lightning will put a new wrinkle into its top power play unit for Saturday's game with the Rangers as defenseman Matt Gilroy gets a chance to man the blue line. The move comes one game after Gilroy made a terrific diagonal pass from the blue line to Steven Stamkos, who scored with a snap shot from the side of the net in the 4-2 loss to the Red Wings.

"To tell you the truth, I would have had him before on it," coach Guy Boucher said. "I didn't want to give him too much to chew on. We had other things to worry about with him, getting him to play good defense and calming his game down, and he's done that. He's really done some good offensive plays, so he's going to get a chance on the power play."

"It's nice," Gilroy said. "Hopefully I can help out and contribute, get the puck to those guys and help them make some plays."

Gilroy, 27, signed as a free agent over the summer, might be Tampa Bay's most improved player from the beginning of the season. He has zero goals and six assists in 22 games and is plus-7 while averaging 18:03 of ice time. 

Gilroy played very little on the power play in two previous seasons with the Rangers. In fact, his 3:48 of power play time this season is more than the 2:43 he had with New York in those two seasons.

"He's someone who earned that spot on the power play. It wasn't just given to him," Stamkos said. "He's smart player and he's earned it. And it's nice to have a right-handed shot up there. It frees up a lot of areas on the ice."

As for facing the Rangers for the first time since he left the organization, Gilroy said it is no big deal.

"They gave me a chance, taught me a lot and I respect them for that," he said. "It was time to move on but nothing but good things to say about them and the organization."

Other notable stuff: Stamkos is tied for the league lead with 16 goals, the first time he has been at the top of the ledger since March 25, when his 43 goals were one ahead of Anaheim's Corey Perry. ... Boucher said Mathieu Garon will be in net against the Rangers. He also said wing Ryan Shannon will be back in after Wednesday's scratch against the Red Wings. No word on what forward will come out. ... Stat of the day from the Rangers: New York is 7-0-0 when Brandon Prust is assessed a fighting major in the opening two minutes.

[Last modified: Sunday, January 1, 2012 12:29am]


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