Stamkos hot on Vinny's trail
Time for a little perspective on Steven Stamkos, the player so many, including former Lightning coach Barry Melrose said was not ready for the NHL. Boiled down to the lowest common denominator, that might have been true. Stamkos was not strong enough at the start of the season and he was not good enough defensively. The difference, though, was how he was handled by Melrose and how he has been handled by coach Rick Tocchet.
Under Melrose, Stamkos was left to fend for himself. Under Tocchet, the Lightning worked with Stamkos, put him on a weight program, put him in a classroom video situation with assistant Wes Walz. It has helped big-time as Stamkos is playing his best hockey of the season. The there is this: Stamkos, with 10 goals, needs three to tie Vinny Lecavalier's rookie output in 1998-99, and with 25 points, needs three to tie Lecavalier as well.
I'm just seeing his game elevate, right now," Tocchet said. "That's experience."
Said Lecavalier: "He's great. He's got enthusiasm on his side. He's mature. I have no doubt he's going to be the player everybody thought he'd be."
Here are the players' stat lines for their rookie seasons:
Player GP G A P +/- PIM PPG GWG S TOI
Lecavalier 82 13 15 28 -19 23 2 2 125 13:39
Stamkos 57 10 15 25 -9 33 5 1 115 13:12
"Maybe," Tocchet said, "he can give Vinny a little jab as he passes him."
Other stuff from this morning: Karri Ramo gets the start in net in hopes of building on his 40-save effort against the Bruins. ... Tocchet would not give specifics, but said the MRI exam on defenseman Lukas Krajicek's sore right hip did not reveal anything serious. Krajicek, who is day to day, will not play tonight. ... Tampa Bay has just 31 shots on goal its past two games. Tocchet said it is not all the fault of the forwards: "Sometimes I get in the forwards too much, 'Go to the net. Get the puck down low.' But when the puck gets to the point, we have to get some of our defensemen to move the puck and get shots through. I think it's a five-man unit when you're not getting shots or scoring goals. The defense has to do a better job of getting shots through." ... Injured goaltender Olie Kolzig was on the ice working with Ramo and Mike McKenna. "You've got to pick your spots out there because you realize you're not wearing any equipment," Kolzig said. Tocchet said he wants Kolzig around the team while he recovers from biceps tendon surgery in his left arm. "He's still a player and I'm not going to put him in a situation where he's a coach," Tocchet said. "But with (goaltenders coach) Cap Raeder doing some scouting, he can work with some of the younger guys. He has a world of knowledge, and it gives him something to come to the rink for. Plus, he's a well thought of leader in the room." ... Kolzig said he still cannot lift anything heavier than a coffee cup with his left arm. ... Edmonton's ice, renowned as the best in the league -- "The temperature here probably has a lot to do with it," left wing Gary Roberts said -- was a hot topic after the skate. Roberts said Edmonton's and Detroit's ice are the best, but added in reference to his 42-year-old legs, "At my age, I'm not always looking for good ice. I'm looking for bad ice. It levels the playing field a little bit."