Tampa Bay Lightning D Mike Lundin calls international experience "something special"
Lightning defenseman Mike Lundin is getting his first international experience as part of the U.S. team at the world championships in Germany, and called it “something special.” The tournament, which begins Friday with the United States taking on the host country, is another step in Lundin’s hockey education. It comes after the 25-year-old from Apple Valley, Minn., had a fine season in which he had three goals and 13 points in 49 games, averaged 21:56 of ice time and became Tampa Bay’s shut-down defenseman. In Tuesday’s 3-1 exhibition victory over France, Lundin, who said the bruised left foot with which he played last season is healed, was partnered with the Islanders’ Jack Hillen. Lundin spoke by phone after Wednesday’s practice.
How did you guys do against France?
We won 3-1. It was a little sloppy, obviously, getting used to the Olympic ice, and kind of recovering. We had only one practice before that after a pretty long flight, obviously, so, it was sloppy and it took a little bit for us to start connecting and being on the same page. But there’s a lot of skill on this team, so it came together and looks like we’re going to be a pretty good team.
How much of an adjustment is playing on the bigger ice?
It’s really big. Every situation, every system, you have to adjust. You can’t keep playing the same way you do in the NHL on the NHL-size rink, so, it’s just learning all the new systems and the tweaks in each zone. And for a defenseman, especially, making sure you protect the middle of the ice even more. It’s important in the NHL, but it’s even more important not getting extended out in these big rinks.
Does it feel like you have tons of room you have to cover?
Yeah, it feels enormous just looking across. You chase a guy into the corner and try to finish your hit and it seems like it takes about an hour to get back in front of the net. It’s weird getting used to every time you step out on the ice still, and we’ve been on the ice four times now. I’m sure we’ll start getting a little used to it here.
How exciting is your first international experience?
It’s something special. The atmosphere, I guess, when you’re playing with a bunch of other Americans and just playing for your country. What other guys say, when they played in the Olympics how it’s something about playing for your country is something special. It’s definitely an experience getting to know all these other guys, getting to know all these other Americans. I’m learning from those guys and listening to some of the stories from other international play and the world championships. It’s fun listening to those guys and learning from them.
What kind of advice?
Not as much for the games. A lot of advice on how to deal with the jet lag, how to not take a nap those first couple days when you really wanted it.
Will this experience make you a better player down the road?
I hope so. I think so. Just more situations, meeting more people around the hockey world, playing in front of people who might not normally see me, playing a different style of game. Maybe you learn something playing this wide open game or playing a more offensive game I can take back and maybe use in the NHL.
How did last season help you progress as a player?
Confidence, mainly, I think. When I’m playing without confidence, I’m not making plays, I’m not doing a lot of things I know I can do, so just gaining the confidence I got from this year has been huge and that’s been the big change.
At 6 feet 2, 197 pounds, do you still feel as if you have to add some strength this summer?
Oh, yeah, definitely. Since my first year, since college, actually, it’s still the main thing I want to work on. Obviously keep working on my speed and quickness and keeping those strengths but at the same time if I can add some weight and add some strength, that’s only going to help my game.
You’re a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Have you heard anything about your future with the Lightning?
No, I haven’t. Hopefully, they look at that I’ve been drafted by the Lightning and been here the whole time and, hopefully, take pride in that. It’s something that I enjoy. I’d like to stay with the same team as long as possible. I’d love to be back, obviously, and, hopefully, everything works out.
Other Lightning players in the world championship are forwards Steven Stamkos and Steve Downie for Canada; defenseman Victor Hedman for Sweden; and forward prospect Richard Panik for Slovakia.