Lightning's Cory Conacher: "It's going to be important for me to control my emotions"
Tampa Bay Lighting rookie Cory Conacher has had a pretty good run as a professional player.
In 2011-12 with AHL Norfolk, he was rookie of the year, league MVP and won a Calder Cup title. But nothing, he said, will be like playing his first NHL game tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the Capitals.
"It's definitely hit me," the left wing said of the realization he is an NHL player. "There are so many emotions going into tonight's game it's going to be important for me to control them somewhat and act like I've been in this position before and to be comfortable, but not overly comfortable."
If training camp was an indication, Conacher will be in some high-profile situations. He played on a line with center Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell. He also took turns with the No. 2 power play unit.
"I have to move my feet and do the things I know how to do, get the puck to Vinny and Purcell. It's going to be a fun experience for me."
Especially since he will be in front of family and friends who are in Tampa for the game. Just walking into the building in a "red carpet" ceremony through a sea of fans will be thrilling, he said.
"It's going to be very hard to keep my emotions inside too much," Conacher said. "I'm a guy who likes to smile and look excited, and I am. Hopefully, I can maintain a high level of emotions in the game, stay consistent, work hard. I'd rather get the two points than my first goal."
More stuff from the morning skate: As expected, Anders Lindback gets the start in net for Tampa Bay. ... Nothing official, but it appears forwards Dana Tyrell and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and defenseman Brendan Mikkelson will be scratched. ... A familiar face with the Capitals is coach Adam Oates, who was a Lightning assistant in during the 2009-10 season. "He's one of the coaches I was probably closest with," Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos said. "he caliber of player he was as an offensive player, he can relate on so many levels. He never wanted to take the puck out of your hands in terms of creativity on the ice. He knew exactly what you were going through mentally." ... As for Stamkos, Oates said, "He's a special, special person. Even when I got here it was his second year. To be mature at that young age and to be that productive and talented, he's a fantastic hockey player and a great person." ... While he may not officially be an assistant coach, Steve Thomas, the Lightning's player development coach, will be with the team as much as he can and be an eye-in-the-sky during games. "There are guys on this team who are head-and-shoulders better than I was, but I'm not intimidated talking to them or even passing some things along I may see." One thing Thomas will help with is the power play. Thomas scored 421 NHL goals, 106 with the extra man. "That and individual skill things," Thomas said, "offensive things around the net, little things that I think as a player you pick up along the way I think guys who haven't played at that level don't understand. I think I can be an asset in that way. ... Capitals defenseman Tom Poti, two years and a week since playing in his last NHL game, will suit up tonight. He has been sidelined with groin problems and a fractured pelvis. His last game was Jan. 12, 2011. "It feels good," Poti, 35, said. "It's nice to know all the hard work I did over the last few years paid off." ... Lightning wing Benoit Pouliot said he prefers to be called Ben. ... Why does Conacher wear No. 89? Because he could not get 19 last season with Norfolk (it was taken) and he was born in 1989. ... Why does Pouliot wear No. 67? Because, he said, when he was young he idolized Mario Lemieux (66) and Jaromir Jagr (68).