Smaby in, Lundin, maybe, out (updated)
The Lightning recalled defenseman Matt Smaby from AHL Norfolk. No Tampa Bay defensemen are injured but it seems Mike Lundin will be the healthy scratch that lets Smaby into the lineup. Lundin generally has been solid this season, but has been a little tentative in the past few games. And as coach Rick Tocchet said of the recent infusion of youth, "We have to get some competition up here."
Sometimes, competition is the best motivator. Lightning GM Brian Lawton reiterated he wants to see how the current group of players will jell, and unless something huge falls into his lap, his personnel moves will be around the edges. That means bringing people up from Norfolk such as Steve Downie, Paul Szczechura, Smaby and Radek Smolenak. Tocchet said that kind of push is better than anything a coaching staff can say because there is a tangible person in the locker room looking to steal playing time.
"Sometimes you need a little kick, not so much from the coaches but from the younger kids," Tocchet said. "We need some guys to push people, and I think these kids are going to do that. ... I felt the kids last game gave us a lot of energy and Smaby deserves a chance to be here. The ship is leaving and we're taking the guys who want to play. These guys are the future. we want to see what they've got."
"I'm comfortable with this group of players," Lawton said. "We're going to see what they can do."
And it is what "they" can do because Lawton said, "I'm very comfortable the coaches are doing a good job. ... Now, it's up to the players to take the responsibility for the wins and losses, and I believe they will get it done."
Morning skate stuff: Tocchet said right wing Radim Vrbata (groin) likely will sit tonight and that right wing Evgeny Artyukhin (a healthy scratch against the Flyers) will be a game-time decision. ... Center Jeff Halpern (knee), cleared for contact, said it is possible he could play by the first or second game after next week's road trip. That means perhaps Dec. 18 against the Avalanche or Dec. 20 against the Thrashers. "I feel good," he said. "So maybe a week or two of this and we'll see where it is." Lawton said while Halpern is "getting closer, we don't rush guys. It's painful. We can use him and we love his skill and love his leadership. But we don't rush players here." ... Tocchet might have inadvertently let it slip Bruins vice president Cam Neely, an old friend, will be named team president, something that had been speculated but never stated. "It's nice to see him in this position with the Bruins because he can really make this organization proud," Tocchet said. "He's going to make a great president." ... Tampa Bay prospects Dustin Tokarski and Dana Tyrell have been invited to Team Canada's camp for the world junior championship.
he is "comfortable the coaches are doing a good job. ... Now it's up to the players to take responsibility for the wins and losses, and I believe they will get it done."