Ranger, Smaby out; Quick up
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said at today's skate that defenseman Paul Ranger will sit out tonight against the Sharks. Ranger has played three games since missing three with an upper body injury. Though Ranger played great Monday against the Kings, Tocchet said, "There are certain things you can't jeopardize with a kid like that."
Also, Matt Smaby was put on injured reserve with a lower body injury. So, Tampa Bay again will play with five defensemen as Kevin Quick was called up from AHL Norfolk.
Tocchet admitted he didn't know much about Quick, but said assistant coach Wes Walz has advised him he is good moving the puck. "He's quick, pardon the pun," Tocchet said. With yet another rookie on the blue line -- Vladimir Mihalik also is up -- the pressure will fall to Marek Malik, Lukas Krajicek and Andrej Meszaros to fill the gap. They did that extremely well Monday against the Kings, when Ranger played 27:08, Meszaros 28:21, Krajicek 24:09 and Malik 23:11. The stars, though were Ranger and Meszaros, both of whom saved a goal in the game's final minute by falling on and pushing away a puck that was lying in the Lightning crease.
"We knew we were going to have a five D back there. We just kept with our game, a regular game, play hard, play smart," Meszaros said. "It doesn't matter if its five D or six D, we just have to play."
Other stuff from this morning: With the Lightning already 3-1 on this five-game road trip, it is a success. Another point tonight would make it something of which to really be proud. But facing the Sharks, the best team in the league right now, seems daunting, especially with a depleted defense. "There's a lot of statistical stuff that this is an impossible game for us to win," coach Rick Tocchet said. "What I said to the team, "It is impossible, but let's get to work.' It's amazing what you can bring your mind and body to do in situations like this. It's going to be a fun game for us to see where we stand." ... Forward Jussi Jokinen is back in the lineup after sitting out one game. Ryan Craig will be out as Tocchet explores a rotation of players to keep everyone fresh. Tocchet said he is not one to keep lineups the same just because a team is winning if players are not doing the job. Having said that, Tocchet stressed Craig has done nothing wrong. He just didn't want Jokinen sitting out too long, and Tocchet said he could use left wing David Koci on defense if he had to. ... Mike Smith starts in goal again. ... Backup goalie Olie Kolzig (left arm) went through a rigorous practice after the team skated, and said he is about ready to return. "I just need a full team practice and I'm good to go," he said. ... Sharks coach Todd McLellan said this is a different Tampa Bay team than the one that fell 3-0 0to San Jose in October. "Their confidence level is up," he said, "and the work ethic really looks like it's there. If we don't match that we'll be chasing our tails all night." ... As for former Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle, McLellan said he has to be included in the top five defensemen in the league. "There's nothing in his game that surprises us now," McLellan said. "The offensiveness, the vision, the competitiveness. I wasn't sure what we were getting as far as a defensive player, and his expectations there probably exceeded what we thought he would get." ... Tocchet had some nice words for Steven Stamkos, who played Monday after sitting out Friday's game with the Ducks and had an assist against the Kings. "He took a hit on that goal to get the assist," Tocchet said. "He's a work in progress. He's got to get a little more aggressive. Not so much jam, he just has to get a little bit more bite to his game."