Lindy Ruff says Lightning players "mentioned a lot" in Canada's Olympic discussions
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, an assistant on Canada's Olympic team, said the debates were hot and heavy when it came to Tampa Bay Lightning players Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. And while Ruff said it was difficult to put a bottom line as to why none of the three were not selected, he said the decisions were not easy.
"Their names were mentioned a lot," Ruff said after Wednesday's morning skate. "There were probably 30 players, some that weren't even at the (orientation) camp that got into the debate. ... There were just a lot of players in that bubble category. You could have taken any one and you wouldn't have been wrong."
Ruff, of course, has a special spot for St. Louis and Stamkos, whom he coached at last year's world championship.
"I really was impressed with both those players at the worlds," Ruff said, "and I just think Marty is one hell of a competitor."
"We were definitely able to get into the discussion," Stamkos said of himself and St. Louis, "and having him there as an assistant, he probably went to bat for us. There are so many good players, but it's definitely nice to know he thought so highly of us. For him to say those things, it means a lot us."
And while Lecavalier, too, said it was gratifying he was part of the debate, "It doesn't make us part of the team. I guess it's nice to hear, but I'm still disappointed with the outcome. That's something (he and St. Louis) looked forward to since the last Olympics, and I worked out really hard this summer and wanted to be part of the team. That was one of my goals, and when you don't achieve them, it's disappointing."
A word about the world juniors: Players had a good time Tuesday night gathering to watch the United States' 6-5 overtime victory over Canada in the world junior championship game in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Most talked about the high level of skill in the game and how much fun it was to watch, as left wing Ryan Malone said, "what's coming up in the league the next couple of years."
But there were some private bets as well as right wing Steve Downie, a Canadian, taped a crumpled hundred dollar bill to the locker of teammate Jeff Halpern, an American, to pay off a friendly bet.
"It's a big deal. When you're that age, it's everything," said Downie, who won gold with Canada in 2006. "One of the highest points in your junior career is winning that. It's just disappointing for them not to pull through. But I thought they showed a lot of heart and determination coming back from two goals down. It was just unfortunate they couldn't finish it off."
It was a great game, though.
"Unbelievable back and forth," Downie said. "A lot of skill players. I loved the game. It was fun to watch."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Mike Smith will make his seventh straight start in net for Tampa Bay. ... Coach Rick Tocchet said he has warned second-year center Steven Stamkos that, just like last season, he has to elevate his game in the second half. Stamkos has a team-high 21 goals and established himself as a legitimate threat in the league. That means he will get more attention from opponents. "This is part of the learning process," Tocchet said. "Now teams are starting to key on him. He's going to play against better players, top defensemen. The center men he will be going against will bear down even more. Like I told him the other day, he has to elevate his game, and he does have another elevation. That's how good he can be. This is just part of the process for him." ... Speaking of the process, how about wing Brandon Bochenski. The guy has scored like crazy at the AHL level, but can't seem to get the same mojo going in the NHL. Tocchet postulated that perhaps the faster NHL game makes Bochenski lose some of his edge. But Bochenski, who tied a team record with 76 goals for AHL Norfolk, but has just 24 goals in 129 NHL games, said it comes down to confidence and opportunity. In other words, it's hard to have confidence in the NHL when you don't have a consistent opportunity. "When I'm in the AHL, playing 22 minutes and every power play, you're going to score a lot more and gain confidence." With players such as Halpern (lower body) and Todd Fedoruk (right knee) on injured reserve, Bochenski said he knows he probably has a finite window to make an impression. "Definitely," he said. "Any time you're a call-up, you're one game from going back. You can't think about it too much but there is always pressure." ... Speaking of pressure, center Blair Jones has 11 shots in his past three games, but has yet to get a point in the nine games in his current call-up. "I like him," Tocchet said. But ... "There's going to be a point, playing 14, 15 minutes, you need production. The thing with Jonesy is he's the type of player he has to realize he can be a good player in this league. We just have to make sure he's on top of his game." Part of that is breaking some bad habits such as not following his shots to the net. Tocchet said Jones often peels off to the corner. "When he does that, he's going to get the deflection goals and rebound goals we talk about so much," Tocchet said." ... Halpern is skating but will not play until Saturday's Flyers game at the earliest, and even that sounded iffy. ... Fedoruk is supposed to start skating this weekend. ... Defenseman Matt Walker is a scratch tonight and just waiting for a break to get back in the lineup. ... Defenseman David Hale also was scratched. ... What does Tocchet like about the Sabres? "I always liked Lindy Ruff. His teams are always very good with the puck and disciplined. Obviously, I'm sure he sleeps at night. He has Ryan Miller in net, probably one of the top two goalies in the league, one of the best in the business. having said that, they play a good structured game. They can score when they need to and play good defense."