More on the refs
Lightning coach Barry Melrose said if you look at all 10 Lightning penalties called in Thursday night's game against the Islanders, "they're all penalties by the book."
By the book. That is the key phrase.
As NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom said of maintaining the strict standard of enforcement for obstruction and stick fouls, "Honestly, I think that's our ongoing message for league consistency, that our team of officials work to the same standard every night. I think we established it after the lockout and our goal is just to maintain it. we recognize it's work every night, and we'll never be perfect, but the commitment of the guys is to work to it every night."
(View the NHL's video on obstruction and stick infractions here.)
In other words, the game is going to be called as the rules are written, and that means if a stick comes up, it's going to be called. If a player uses an open hand on another, it's going to be called regardless of how it affects the play.
Walkom said that is not a crackdown, just playing by the rules.
Melrose seems on Walkom's side here and said he is having a video made up of all the calls on the Lightning against New York, and he will show it to the players.
"Some guys think they're not penalties. They're penalties," Melrose said. "The referees and the NHL has made it clear this is what's going to be called. It's got to be a commitment thing. They (the players) have to decide winning is more important than a lazy hook or hold."
Tampa Bay entered Friday shorthanded a league-high 29 times. It is hard to argue though that referees are being stricter than years past. According to the NHL 366 restraining fouls (hooking, holding, interference, tripping, holding the stick) have been called so far this season compared to 379 last year at this time. There have been 55 slashing calls compared to 46 last season.
Still, defenseman Paul Ranger said it's difficult when a team is put two men down when contact hardly has been made.
"It's not really the way I would choose to call a game," he said.
We'll have more in Saturday's paper.
Stuff from today's practice: Lots of line dancing. Vinny Prospal was back on Vinny Lecavalier's line. And Ryan Malone as back on Steven Stamkos' line. Radim Vrbata, with zero points while playing with Stamkos, was dropped to Chris Gratton's line. Adam Hall went from Gratton's line to Stamkos'. ... Denseman Andrej Meszaros, who took a shot off his "lower body" Thursday sat out Friday's practice but is expected to play Saturday against the Wild. ... Defenseman Marek Malik has not yet signed a contract, the team said, but Melrose made it sould like Malik could play against Minnesota. We'll see, though he also said the blue line against the Islanders was the best it played all season. ... Assistant coach Wes Walz will face his former team for the first time on Saturday. ... Ranger said he had no ill effects from Thursday's game, his first of the season after April's sholder surgery. ... Melrose gave high praise to Vinny Prospal. "Vinny was the one guy who just wouldn't quit," Melrose said of Thursday's game. "Vinny went out there and was winning battles and going to the front of the net and hounding the puck. ... I thought he was awesome. I thought he was our best forward."