Lightning's Keith Aulie takes big step from last season as defenseman gains playing time
One player making tremendous strides from last season is Lightning defenseman Keith Aulie, who has transformed from a tentative, careful player into a confident, physical player who also can move the puck.
Aulie, 23, acquired in February from the Maple Leafs for forward Carter Ashton, has earned (for now, anyway) a permanent spot in the top six on the blue line. He has a goal and two points, is plus-2 and and is averaging 12:16 of ice time. Clearly, Aulie benefited from playing last season for AHL Norfolk during its run to the Calder Cup. He played for AHL Syracuse this season during the lockout.
"He has really been good for us, huge," coach Guy Boucher said. "He said it himself, he wanted to come in here and give us something we were lacking last year, physicality, and he's done that. He's hit everybody, and hard, some pancakes on the boards the last three games. And he's in the right place defensively."
"It starts by being here, and once you're here you want more," the 6-foot-6 Aulie said. "It's not up to them, it's up to me to work hard every day and show them what I can do and bring a positive attitude every day."
One thing on which Aulie has greatly improved, Boucher said, is his ability to move the puck.
"He moves it in a simple way, a very effective way," Boucher said. "That's contrary to last year when he was a bit nervous with the puck, so he's done terrific."
Added Aulie: "It feels good. You just have to keep building from here and try to help the team."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Anders Lindback will be in net for the Lightning tonight against the Senators. ... The Senators will go with Ben Bishop in goal. That might be a bit of a break for Tampa Bay as Ottawa's Craig Anderson, whose .976 save percentage after three games is second in the league, has dominated the Lightning in his career: 6-1-0 in 10 games with a 1.24 goals-against average and .955 save percentage. ... Bishop is 6 feet, 7 inches. Add Lindback, who is 6-6 and that is 13 feet, 1 inch of goaltending. ... Lightning forwards Dana Tyrell and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and defenseman Brendan Mikkelson will be scratched. ... Boucher said Lee, who was scratched Tuesday against the Hurricanes had a "nag;" that is, an injury that is better. He also said Mikkelson has a "nag," but should be good in a day or two. No word on what these nags are. ... Captain Vinny Lecavalier said he will have about 40 friends and family in attendance tonight as he receives the traditional silver stick for his 1,000th game. Tonight actually is game 1,002 for Lecavalier, who reached the milestone Monday against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum and also played Tuesday against Carolina. Lecavalier will get the stick, as well as other gifts from teammates in an eight-minute ceremony before the game. He said it will be "fun." Boucher called Lecavalier "one of the pillars in sports here." ... The Lightning has been called for 22 penalties in three games and has faced 18 power plays. "A concern," Boucher said. "It's not so much the number but the moment." Tampa Bay already has faced three five-on-threes. ... The Lightning is allowing 37 shots a game, but Boucher said he is not worried. He is more concerned about scoring chances. He wants Tampa Bay to allow fewer than 12 per game. He said in the Lightning's two wins, it gave up 11 chances to the Capitals and Hurricanes. In its only loss, to the Islanders, Tampa Bay allowed 24 scoring chances.