Handicapping the close battle for Tampa Bay Lightning's final roster spots at forward
This is a big weekend for the guys on the roster bubble as the Tampa Bay Lightning plays Friday and Saturday against the Panthers. The most intense battle is at forward between Eric Perrin, Johan Harju and Dana Tyrell. Reading between the lines, it sounds, from what coach Guy Boucher said on Friday before the team left for Fort Lauderdale, that Perrin and Tyrell may have the lead, slight though it may be.
Just to be clear, it is not completely certain how many forwards the Lightning will carry. There are 14 on the roster, and, in theory, if the team carries only seven defensemen, it can have as many as 14 forwards on a 23-man roster. If Tampa Bay keeps eight defensemen, the most forwards the team will have is 13.
In other words, it really is up in the air, and in the coach's words, "These two games are important for some people."
But we'll let you decide. Here is what Boucher said about each:
What does Boucher like about Perrin, the former Lightning who came to camp on a tryout invitation? "His versatility. He’s a very smart player, and you can put him on, if you have top-end players or offensive players on the top three lines who are injured, you can put him up there. He can kill penalties. He can win his faceoffs. So, he can do a lot of things."
On Tyrell, 21, who never has played a regular-season NHL game: "He’s more a grinding type of guy who is going to give us momentum. He’s first on puck. He’s not scared of anybody. He creates stuff every time he’s on the ice. He's a young guy, and promising in his role."
On Harju, who is from Sweden: "He’s a big boy with speed. He hasn’t really figured out yet how the North American game is played on a consistent basis, which is probably his biggest task right now. But he certainly is a solid prospect for us. There’s not a lot of big guys who can skate out there who have a bit of skill."
Summing up, Boucher said, "A very, very tough choice. That’s why I can say they can all make the team. But right now, it’s going to come down to very small details to see what we specifically need. ... The reality is we’ll have injuries and I'm sure we’ll see all of these guys at some point."
Playing tonight against the Panthers: Goaltenders -- Mike Smith, Dan Ellis. Forwards -- Simon Gagne, Vinny Lecavalier, Steve Downie, Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Sean Bergenheim, Eric Perrin, Teddy Purcell, Johan Harju, Nate Thompson, Adam Hall. Defensemen -- Pavel Kubina, Mike Lundin, Brett Clark, Victor Hedman, Matt Smaby, Mathieu Roy.
Odd and ends: Boucher did not sound confident center Dominic Moore (groin) will be ready for the regular-season opener Oct. 9 against the Thrashers. He was a bit more optimistic about defenseman Randy Jones (finger). ... Defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who missed two practices last week, will not play tonight. Boucher said Ohlund is not injured but needs some "body maintenance." ... Downie had some practice time with the No. 1 power play unit in place of Kubina. Boucher said he wants several players ready to go if any of the regular members of the unit -- Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Kubina -- cannot. Boucher said he will practice Purcell there, too. Downie, though, had a good quote about playing with the first unit. "They move the puck well, those four guys. It's unbelievable."