Important road trip coming
The five-day road trip that begins Wednesday and goes through New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia Washington and Florida is going to be big, and not just in relation to where the Lightning will be in the standings.
General manager Brian Lawton said he is going to start making some determinations about personnel at that point. Not that he hasn't started that process already, but the extended road swing will give him a chance to really look at where changes are necessary.
"As we hit New York and New Jersey, I'm really looking forward to that to form some serious opinions of what goes on here," Lawton said.
"From a macro view, I want to see the direction of the team. What is our personality of our team? What is our chemistry as a group? From an individual level, I'm trying to get a full accounting if where every player is at. What can they take and what is too much for them? What's the breaking point? And trying to build the team from there."
Lawton said he still is trying to absorb as much as he can about the team, and likely will be at every game -- EVERY GAME -- except for some scouting duties as we get closer to the March 4 trade deadline and at the world junior championships.
"My job ... is to get to know this team like I know the back of my hand," he said. "I don't feel I'm there yet at all. It takes time."
As for what he has seen so far, Lawton said, he believes players got a "pop" from finally getting away from home on this short two-game swing. But also, "Some players, frankly, are much better than I thought thy were. Others aren't at the level I thought they were. That's what you determine by being on top of it."
Other stuff from this morning: Olaf Kolzig will start in net tonight against the Sabres. Coach Barry Melrose said he envisions a three-to-one ratio in how many games Mike Smith starts to Kolzig. That could change if Kolzig goes on a tear or Smith slumps, but right now the plan is for Smith to run with the No. 1 job. ... Melrose said forward Ryan Craig (groin) is ready to play. Right wing Radim Vrbata (groin) is close). ... With Steven Stamkos getting more power play time, it has been interesting that Tampa Bay is going with four forwards and one defenseman with Marty St. Louis running the show on a point. Vinny Lecavalier also rotates to the point, but it is St. Louis with the quarterback responsibility. Melrose said it is partly necessity. "We just don't have a defenseman who is that type of D. To run a point on a power play you have to have ice water in your veins. You have to have moxie. You have to be willing to wait out the forechecker. You have to be a special type of player to play that position, and that's why Marty is so good. Marty has ice water in his veins. He'll wait guys out. Our other D aren't those type of D."