Kurtis Foster sits tonight for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and a good story doesn't materialize
Nothing really worked out today for those of us who like a good story.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kurtis Foster was scratched from tonight's game with the Sharks, and San Jose center Torrey Mitchell is on long-term injured reserve with tendinitis in his left knee and is not even with the team. Had both been in the lineup, it would have been he first time they were on the same ice since March 19, 2008 in San Jose when Foster's left leg was broken because of reckless play by Mitchell.
Foster, then with the Wild, was chasing down a puck a dump-in behind his own net for an icing but was pushed into the boards from behind by Mitchell. As Foster said at the time, the leg just snapped and required surgery the next day to insert a steel rod to stabilize the bone. Foster played just 10 games last season after returning.
There apparently is no ill will between the two. Foster said Mitchell called the day after the injury as Foster was in a San Jose hospital and apologized.
"I spoke to him right after the injury," Foster said Thursday. "He called and wished me well and apologized almost too much. I told him not to worry about it. I knew he wasn't trying to hurt me. Things happen in games. It was an uncareful play to do, but things happen. He was everything I could have expected. He didn't forget about it. He was very emotional and sorry about it."
Strange but true: Mitchell broke his left leg (same as Foster) during training camp and missed the entire 2008-09 regular season.
Truth be told, Foster said playing against the Sharks and especially in San Jose, where the injury occurred will be tougher than facing Mitchell. In fact, Foster said he almost made last season's debut in San Jose. But when then-Wild coach Jacques Lemaire asked how Foster felt, Foster said he was honest and said playing would be "weird."
"So I didn't play the game," Foster said. You kind of want it to go away but it's always in the back of your mind that you always remember things like that. I think playing the Sharks will be one thing, playing in San Jose will be another. I remember last year I practiced there and it was weird going back to that same spot. Anybody can tell you they try to forget, but they never really do. You've got to move on, though."
Other stuff from the morning skate:
Mike Smith gets the start in goal for the Lightning. Coach Rick Tocchet said he has liked Smith's practices since his last game a week ago against the Senators. "When he has good practices he's on his game," Tocchet said. "He's really tightened up his practices. He had a sharpness to him this week. It was nice to see." ... Foster sits tonight because David Hale played well Saturday against the Penguins, Tocchet said. "He's a gritty guy and he's done a nice job for us," Tocchet said of Hale. He practices hard. He's the ultimate depth guy." ... When Matt Smaby returns from the upper-body injury he sustained with AHL Norfolk, the Lightning will be back to nine defensemen. It is no secret the Lightning wants to move one of its blue-liners, most likely Lukas Krajicek. But until then, the team has a lot of extra parts. "We're going to have to rectify that," Tocchet said. "It does disrupt your flow and stuff like that." Especially because Tocchet would rather consistently play a core group of six. ... Here's the thing for Tocchet. While he has options on defense, he has none with his forwards. With just 12 on the roster, the coach is reluctant to sit a player who is not performing because it will leave the team a forward short on the bench. So, how does he motivate? By threatening to withhold ice time. "Ice time is something that's going to be monitored tonight," Tocchet said. "Guys are going to be rewarded tonight. That was our meeting today. If you battle and do what we're asking, you're going to play tonight. We have 12 forwards in tonight and the best forwards will play. I think all the guys will show up tonight. I really do." ... Tocchet called the Sharks a "heavy-stick team." What does that mean? "They challenge you down-low. They throw the puck to the net. They always have people going to the net. To get the puck off them, you have to have a heavy hand." ... Lightning rookie left wing James Wright, who gets a turn on Vinny Lecavalier's line tonight, has two games left before the team has to decide whether to send him back to juniors. But Tocchet said, "I don't foresee him going down. ... He hasn't had a dropoff, he hasn't hurt us defensively and has probably been one of our better forecheckers. His confidence level is getting better every day. He's done everything we've asked him to do." ... Co-owner Oren Koules is in Hollywood for the premiere of Saw VI.