Ellis expected to start in net; Randy Jones likely back
Joe Smith here filling in for Damian with updates from today's skate
Lightning goalie Dan Ellis is expected to start his sixth straight game tonight as Tampa Bay hosts the Canadiens in a sold-out matchup at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Rookie goalie Cedrick Desjardins obviously would have liked to get the nod against Montreal, an organization he spent four years in without a call up. But Desjardins said his "time will come" and had fun running into some former teammates the past day or so, as the Canadiens are staying in the same hotel he is in downtown Tampa.
"I respect Montreal, it's one of the greatest organizations in the league," Desjardins said. "They were the only team that gave me a chance when I was 20 years old, and I'll always be thankful for them as well...I never played for them, really, but from my point I had a great time there, met great people."
As for Ellis, he said he enjoys playing in so many games in a row helps develop a rhythm and comfort zone, which could turn into better results.
"It's a lot like a forward that maybe plays here or there, that seventh defensemen or 12th forward," Ellis said. "When he goes in there, you can't expect him to be perfect every night because he's going in there consistently and you're expecting consistent results. It's similar with a goalie, only it's a higher level, because the puck stops with you, you're the last line of defense."
Coach Guy Boucher has noticed Ellis has improved his positioning in net in winning three of his last five starts.
"It's a night and day difference," Ellis said. "I was playing the whole first half of the season thinking about where I was. I started out being deep (in the crease), then I went out high, then I just said, 'You know what, I can't play where I'm not used to.' So I got back to playing my own distances and stuff. You know where the pucks are around you.
"When you're deeper, you have further to reach. When you're further out, you have less to reach. When you're changing that, it's a huge adjustment that people don't think of and you don't always get the results you want. So I've been getting back to my comfort zone in positioning and stuff and have felt a lot better and been able to put up better results."
**Other notes from today's morning skate: RW Steve Downie (high ankle sprain) skated with the team for the first time since suffering the injury Dec. 2, with Boucher saying there's a "high probability" he could be ready to play in a game as early as next week's road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh.
Downie said it was fun being back with his teammates, but acknowledged he'll need some more hard practices to get his legs back into game-shape.
"No matter what you say, I was in a cast for a week, I've been in a (walking boot)," Downie said. "My legs have got to come. It won't take too long, but definitely need some time to get skating, some more hard practicies. Time will tell.
Boucher also said that D Randy Jones, who missed Tuesday's game with an upper body injury, should be back tonight, meaning that D Matt Smaby will likely be out.
*As much as Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Bruins was tough to get over - forward Sean Bergenheim said he had a tough time sleeping that night he was so mad - Boucher said he stressed to his team in this morning's meeting on the several things they could have controlled before the controversial boarding call against Steven Stamkos in the final minutes.
"I'm a big believer in things we can control," Boucher said. "This morning, we went over the stuff we should have been controlling last game, easily three of their four goals we made mistakes that we shiould have made. We don't want to pin the whole game on a reference at the end and we all know it was a weird ending, but we could have made the difference before we got to that point. That's what I wanted our players to make sure they understand it."
And Boucher said he believes the team will bounce back, like they have all season; "We have never not bounced back before."
-- JOE SMITH