Dustin Tokarski will make his first NHL start for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Capitals
Dustin Tokarski led the Tampa Bay Lightning onto the ice for pregame warmups Thursday night, confirming what had been suspected. The 22-year-old just called up from AHL Norfolk will make his first NHL start against the Capitals in the midst of the heated playoff race. Tokarski also was the first off the ice after the morning skate, but coach Guy Boucher said he had not spoken to his goaltenders yet so could not say publicly which would start.
A case could have been made for either Tokarski or Dwayne Roloson, 42.
Tokarski is on an 8-0-0 streak with the Admirals with a 1.75 goals-against average and .924 save percentage, so his confidence probably is at it's peak. Roloson has not allowed fewer than three goals in a start since Nov. 17, but likely is more comfortable in what will be a hostile and energy-charged atmosphere at the Verizon Center.
Asked what criteria he uses to make such a decision, Boucher said: "Who we're playing, the circumstances, experience and just having some time to get accustomed to thinks for the young guys, and for the older guy to make sure he understands the situation and what is going on. It's always a difficult choice when you have goaltenders who can both go in. But there are good choices to make and I have to make those every game."
Even if Tokarski did not start against the Capitals, he would have seen action, and Tampa Bay goaltenders coach Frantz Jean said, "I think he's ready. He's done the work the last three years and has always paid attention to details and steadily improved. It's an opportunity for him to come to the big league now and let's see where he is."
"It's exciting," Tokarski said. "It's a step towards the dream and I'm enjoying every minute of it."
More stuff from the morning skate: The team said the back surgery performed Wednesday on D Marc-Andre Bergeron to relieve sciatic nerve irritation was "successful," though his season likely is over. ... Boucher made it sound as if defenseman Bruno Gervais (upper body) will be out for a while. ... Defenseman Victor Hedman, who played Tuesday against the Senators after missing four games with an upper-body injury, said he had "good legs" against Ottawa, but felt his timing was off. "I'll be sure I play a better game tonight," he said. ... Forward Tm Wallace has goals in consecutive games after going the first 57 games of his career without one. "The first one was a huge relief because it took a while," Wallace said. "Hopefully, the flood gates are open." Added Boucher: "He's got a terrific shot. He's a hard-working guy. He's got some jam to him and he deserved the goals he got. And they weren't easy goals to score either. He scored in a tiny little hole the last game (against the Senators) and the previous game (against the Hurricanes), inside-post, low-blocker. They certainly are welcome goals. We need those bonus goals."