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It's a loss, but look at the bright side



The Lightning's 3-2 exhibition loss to the Penguins Monday night likely will be bemoaned by those who cannot stomach a loss in any sense at any time. And, yes, the defense, had a couple burps that led to goals and the power play could not score in 9:36 with the man advantage. But after watching the line of Steven Stamkos and wings Radim Vrbata and Ryan Malone, I really believe the Lightning has something here.

Malone was rusty and had just one shot and two penalties in his first game. But Stamkos looked exponentially better in his second game, was constantly around the puck, had four shots, missed another seven and hit a post. Vrbata looked smooth and had a game-high six shots. Most important, Stamkos and Vrbata showed chemistry. If Malone can join in, the line just might be okay. Coach Barry Melrose said the line will play together the rest of the preseason.

"Once we get Malone into playing game speed, the line looked pretty good," Melrose said. "But I think people are starting to see what makes this kid (Stamkos) special. You know, those are NHL defensemen he's going up against and he's posting them and jumping through the middle and stuff. He's a pretty impressive kid."

Impressive also was Jussi Jokinen, who has shined in two games at center. He scored and had another strong game. You've got to feel bad for the guy, though. He's in a tough spot, knowing he likely could be traded, and he is making the most of his showcase. He will play in his third game on Tuesday.

"He's come here and just played great," Melrose said. "He's been our best player in the exhibition games as far as I'm concerned."

The lineup for Tuesday's game against the Rangers at the St. Pete Times Forum: Goaltenders -- Mike Smith, Riku Helenius. Forwards -- Vinny Prospal, Jussi Jokinen, Marty St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos, Radim Vrbata, Gary Roberts, Chris Gratton, Mark Recchi, Jason Ward, Ryan Craig, Adam Hall. Defensemen -- Andrej Meszaros, Mike Lundin, Shane O'Brien, Janne Niskala, Vladimir Mihalik, Matt Carle.

Smith is expected to start in goal and play the entire game. 

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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