It appears rookie left wing James Wright gets to stay, for now, with the Tampa Bay Lightning

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October

Here is why the 10th game for Tampa Bay Lightning rookie left wing James Wright is so important: If he plays that game, his contract counts for this season. Regardless of whether he is eventually sent back to juniors (and he can still be sent back), a 10th game means he counts one year as a pro. That is key when calculating when a player becomes a free agent.

Having said that, all indications are that Wright, 19, the 117th overall pick of the 2008 draft who has earned a spot on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, and who has been perhaps the nicest story of the season so far, is on schedule to play his 10th game Thursday against the Senators.

Wright practiced with the team Tuesday, and coach Rick Tocchet said he expects Wright will be in the lineup.

"Yeah, nobody has told me anything different," Tocchet said. He's done a nice job for us."

Wright has a goal and two points and Saturday against the Sabres had a career-best 17:05 of ice time. More than his stats, though, is the way he has handled himself one season out of junior and on the team's highest-profile line.

"He's 19 but you wouldn't know it," Tocchet said. "He's a very mature kid. It's a credit to his family and his parents, he's such a mature kid. He doesn't get too high or too low, that's what I like about him. He's wide-eyed on the bench, and I'm telling you he's been a pleasure to coach."

"If that's true, then I'd be ecstatic," Wright said of staying past nine games. "It's something coming to camp, you know it's a long shot, but it's something I've been waiting for. I've been working hard the whole time to try to stick with the A group."

"You can't be satisfied at all," Wright said. "You just keep pushing. My goal is to help the team as best I cam, and for us, that's making the playoffs and go from there."

Other tidbits from practice: Nothing new on defenseman Paul Ranger, who was granted a leave of absence to deal with a personal issue. "We'll go through the process and see where it goes," Tocchet said. ... With Ranger out, it appears the defensive combos are Andrej Meszaros and Kurtis Foster, Mattias Ohlund and Victor Hedman, and David Hale and Matt Walker. ... Nothing official, but it sounds like Tocchet is leaning toward Mike Smith in goal against the Senators. ... Tocchet was funny when asked how he did on breakaways: "I didn't have many and we didn't have shootouts back then. You have to be fast to have breakaways. ... Funny, but Tocchet said he did not think to use Drew Miller during Saturday's six-round shootout with the Sabres, even though Drew's brother Ryan was in net for Buffalo. "Honestly, I didn't even think of the brother thing during the moment. Maybe I should have." Miller said he did not lobby -- "The game is bigger than that" -- and did not offer his teammates advise on how to beat his brother. "You start doing that, and then he makes the save, just let them do their thing."

[Last modified: Thursday, November 26, 2009 12:15am]

    

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