Denis to back up Ramo; how 'bout Norrena?
Lightning goaltender Mike Smith said he is encouraged by the progress of his strained left knee, but said he didn't believe he could be on the bench tonight against the Capitals. That means Marc Denis will back up Karri Ramo.
Before we go any further, it probably is worth noting here that one of the pieces the Lightning gave up to get Denis from the Blue Jackets, Fredrik Norrena, had his second shutout of the season Wednesday over the Blackhawks, though it isn't like he's tearing up the league with a 2.70 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage.
But back to Smith, who was hurt in Monday's practice when Marty St. Louis fell on him in a breakaway drill. He said his pain is "minimal'' but added, "Some positions are worse than others. You play the same but you don't have the confidence because of the pain thing.
As for Denis, who hasn't played for the Lightning since allowing three goals on 15 shots in 40 minutes of work Dec. 18 against the Thrashers, he says he has no hard feelings against the Lightning because of the way things worked out. He said he is not worried one way or another if the Lightning buys him out over the summer, as is the likely plan.
Of playing for AHL Norfolk, where he is 9-15-2 in 28 games with a 3.02 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage, he said, "You learn every day. I don't care if by far I'm the oldest guy on that team or by far the oldest guy on the ice, period, both teams combined. It doesn't matter. I learn something every day. I will take a lot from that experience, and I have that belief I'll be a better person and a better goalie because of it. ... I'll bounce back. I'm very confident I'll do that.''
Other stuff from this morning: Big surprise coach John Tortorella did not want to talk about being named the United States coach for the World Championships. ... He said he liked defenseman Filip Kuba has contributed two goals and five points in his past three games, but added, "I wish it was going during the year when it really counted for something.'' ... Torts said he gets no pleasure out of the Lightning playing a spoiler role. "Only with Florida,'' he said. "I don't like Florida.'' But seriously, "There's no satisfaction in anything we're doing as far a the situation we're in. We're out. We play the game to get into the playoffs and do some damage. It's nice to talk about because there really is nothing else to talk about when you're not playing for the playoffs. I just want my team to play hard. I want us to continue to try to improve in the areas we can and I'm really looking forward to trying to reset ourselves next year and get back to a mind-set of being a playoff team.'' ... Speaking of playing hard, the Lightning hasn't gotten much out of Vinny or Marty the past two games after their brief offensive spurts. That's why it is notable the two stars will be joined by Mathieu Darche on left wing tonight. Darche got moved up to that line in the third period of Tuesday's game after the top line, along with everyone else, really, played a poor second period. But, you know, anything that happens with the top guys resonates more, so Torts, without naming names, took this shot. "I don't understand why I have to change any line to get some people to play harder. I don't think they were playing hard. I thought they played hard in the third period. ... I think it gets contagious when they see a bubble guy with this team fighting for his life and playing hard, it forces them to play. It (makes me mad) we have to do that. No matter where we are in a season, I think you need to play hard. We'll see where that one goes.'' ... The problem with moving Darche, of course, is that you break up what has been the team's best line with Darche, center Jeff Halpern and Michel Ouellet. ... On Halpern: "No question he has been our best offensive player and our best defensive player since he's been here.''