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Tampa Bay Lightning calls up Blair Jones as coach Rick Tocchet tries to shake things up



Had some moving parts this morning as the Tampa Bay Lightning gets set to face the Devils at the Prudential Center.

Defenseman Mattias Ohlund and left wing Ryan Malone did not skate, but the morning activity was optional and both, apparently, took their options. Blair Jones also was called up from AHL Norfolk and coach Rick Tocchet said Jones will play some center. That led to speculation about what might happen with Vinny Lecavalier. The team is desperate to get him going. Is it possible they might give him a shot at wing? 

Will be interesting to see what shakes out and what moves Tocchet makes to shake the team out of a three-game winless streak that includes just two goals in the past 126 minutes, 19 seconds.

The way it looks now, left wing Todd Fedoruk will be scratched as will defenseman Matt Smaby, who played his first NHL game on Wednesday but was held out of much of the third period because, Tocchet said, the team was looking for more offense. With Smaby out, that seems to mean David Hale is back in. Kurtis Foster also skated with the defense after playing several games at forward. 

But with Jones up and no corresponding move, the Lightning is up to the 23-player roster limit. That means there is one more scratch to be announced, and we apparently won't know who that is until game time. Conventional  wisdom would say it is a defenseman as the team has eight on the roster and only Smaby has been announced as out.    

Other stuff from the morning skate: Goalie Antero Niittymaki rejoined the team after dealing with an immigration issue in New York and will start tonight in net. ... Defenseman Victor Hedman, who took Thursday off for "body maintenance," skated and will play. ... Jeff Halpern has two goals and an assist since playing with on Lecavalier's line. And while Halpern said he could have been even more productive, "The biggest thing is when you get an opportunity to take advantage of it. The coaches have given me an opportunity to try to do well." ... Jones looked comfortable sitting in the locker room next to old Norfolk roommate Steve Downie. Jones hasn't played a game with the Lightning since the 2007-08 season and said he has been working hard to get back. "Working a lot in the defensive zone," he said. "Taking care of the puck, just developing smaller things about my game that weren't there. I think I came a long way." As for how he looks at this opportunity, he said, "You have to play like you want to be here, and you have to show them you belong here every game and not think, 'Well, I'm here to fill a roster spot for a few games and then I'll be going back. I'm here to stay.' I'm happy to be back up, and don't want to go back down." ... Defenseman Matt Walker said he is feeling good enough after a tough night with what he called a bad cold.  ... Fedoruk was scratched for his seventh straight game. "Fridge has to play with an edge and he wasn't," Tocchet said. "We talked about it. He understands now he has to wait his turn to get in."     

[Last modified: Sunday, January 3, 2010 12:15am]


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