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Former Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Carter Ashton making an impression with Toronto



When the Tampa Bay Lightning traded Carter Ashton to the Maple Leafs for defenseman Keith Aulie, the team said goodbye to a former first-round draft pick many saw as a Ryan Malone-type power forward who could add some muscle, grit and scoring, just the elements the organization seems to need.

But Ashton, who faces his former organization for the first time tonight, said he took the trade in stride, looks at his time with AHL Norfolk as a good learning experience and is excited for the chance Toronto is giving him to play in the NHL.

"I was in Norfolk and I understood the process of getting better and trying to get to the NHL, so I wasn't frustrated," Ashton said. "I'm excited to come here to Toronto."

As for facing the Lightning for the first time, Ashton said, "Playing against your old organization there is going to be an element there to prove yourself and try to do the best you can."

Ashton, 20, will have that chance right away as Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said the right wing is moving up in the lineup because of the injury to Nikolai Kulemin, who will be out for three weeks with a broken finger. In his first four games, Ashton, 6 feet 3, 215 pounds, has zero points and is minus-1 with six shots on goal while averaging 12:11 of ice time. That after getting 19 goals, 35 points with 58 penalty minutes in 56 games for Norfolk.

"A big young kid who hasn't changed his game," Carlyle said. "He's played the same way from his first shift and continues to make an impression."

Carlyle said the message to Ashton has been "don't change your game. Do what you do best. You're here to play the type of hockey you're capable of. Try not to be anyone else but Carter Ashton."

"I enjoyed my time there and learned a lot," Ashton said of Norfolk. "It's been a whirlwind since the trade and the call-up and I'm just trying to learn as much as I can. I'm excited to have the opportunity."

Other stuff from the morning skate: Center Steven Stamkos , who grew up outside Toronto in Unionville, Ontario, was, of course, mobbed by the media from Toronto which wanted to talk about his 50-goal season. Stamkos said he received about 70 congratulatory messages after Tuesday's game in which he scored twice to reach the milestone. He said he believes he returned every one. "If I missed anybody, I apologize." ... As expected, Dustin Tokarski gets his fourth straight start in net for Tampa Bay. ... Defenseman Bruno Gervais (shoulder) is available to play, but will be scratched, coach Guy Boucher said. ... Speaking of players facing their former teams for the first time, defenseman Keith Aulie, whom the Lightning acquired in the Ashton deal, is in that situation with the Maple Leafs. "It's a different feeling," Aulie said. "It's weird being out there seeing those guys. The weird thing is actually hearing them. Those are the guys who would be calling for a pass, so that's the weird aspect of it." ... Aulie said he went to dinner Wednesday night with Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn, his best friend on the team. "It was good to see him and catch up, but today is all business," Aulie said, and added. "Toronto is great. I thank Toronto for everything they gave me, but at the same time coming into the league you want the opportunity but you have to be ready for it. My goal now is to be ready for this opportunity and make the best of it. That's all I can do." ... Fun conversation with defenseman Mike Commodore, who fought Boston's Shawn Thornton on Tuesday. It was a statement fight for Thornton who asked Commodore to go with the Bruins getting clobbered 4-0 in the first period. "He knows what he's doing," Commodore said of Thornton. "He's very good with both hands." It appeared Commodore took some blows in the battle. "Actually," Commodore said, "the good thing is I slipped underneath most of them. It doesn't look real good. I got hit with a couple, but nothing really. I worked on my slipping that fight." ... Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron watched the morning skate from the bench and said surgery to remove the pressure on his sciatic nerve was a success. "The pain in my leg is gone," he said. "It's the moment I've waited for for a long time." ... Finally, right wing Adam Hall and wife Dina on Wednesday welcomed their first child, a son, Evan John Hall, 8 pounds, 4 ounces. "I'm going on emotion," Hall said. 

[Last modified: Thursday, March 15, 2012 2:50pm]


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