Jets LW, and former Lightning, James Wright makes impression by sticking up for teammate
Tampa Bay Lightning fans likely remember James Wright as the feel-good story of the first half of the 2009-10 season, when the left wing made the roster out of junior. He played 48 games before he was sent back to Vancouver of the Western Hockey League.
Wright, 22, is back in the NHL with the Jets, who play the Lightning tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and in his team's good graces after attacking Florida's Scottie Upshall on Thursday after Upshall elbowed teammate Zach Redmond in the head in his first NHL game.
"I think that through the years the coaches have instilled a team mentality, all for one and stick up for each other," said Wright, who earned 19 penalty minutes, including a 10-minute misconduct, five for fighting and two each for instigating and unsportsmanlike conduct for instigating while wearing a face shield. "I thought that was a time a teammate got taken advantage of and it was time for me to stick up for him."
"I was happy with what happened," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "It was a good response from him."
After his stint with Tampa Bay, Wright played another season for Vancouver and in 2010-11 played for AHL Norfolk. In 2011-12, still with Norfolk, he was traded to the Panthers with Mike Vernace for defensemen Mike Kostka and Evan Oberg and was sent to AHL San Antonio. The Jets claimed him off waivers in January.
In five games for the Jets, Wright has zero points, is minus-1 and averaging 7:17 of ice time with some penalty kill time thrown in.
"He's played really well," Noel said. "He's a really dependable player for us right now, a good, solid, fourth-line left winger that skates and is hard to play against. For me, he's gotten better every game."
"There were a lot of good guys I learned from here," said Wright, drafted 117th overall by the Lightning in 2008. "Marty (St. Louis) and Vinny (Lecavalier) are classy guys, and the way they went about their professionalism was something I took full advantage of learning."
"It's going to be awesome," Wright said of playing at the Times Forum. "I haven't been back here for a while. It's going to be pretty cool."
Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected, Anders Lindback will make his fourth straight start in net for the Lightning. ... Defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron and Brendan Mikkelson and right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie are scratched. ... Mikkelson said he "dodged a bullet" when he crashed head- and shoulder-first into the end boards during Thursday's practice. Mikkelson, who is day-to-day, said all tests performed at Tampa General Hospital (an X-ray and a CT scan) were negative. He said he has no headaches and is nothing more than sore and stiff. Mikkelson said he isn't sure whether he got his skates tangled up with those of Steven Stamkos as they raced after a puck or if he just "blew a tire." Either way, Mikkelson said he never before hit the boards that hard and believes he was unconscious for a few seconds. When he came to he said he was "gasping for air" as the wind was knocked out of him. Of the collision, he said, "The guys told me it was pretty solid." ... Right wing Marty St. Louis has a dubious distinction as entering Friday he was tied for the league lead with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang with 11 giveaways. But coach Guy Boucher said he is not worried and not only because St. Louis, with 12 points on three goals and nine assists has been so productive offensively. "Some of the plays that are turnovers have worked before," Boucher said. "Why they don't work now is" because of "what kind of reads they have." The key, Boucher said, is "managing those offensive skills and creativity in a way the players are strong."