Tampa Bay Lightning defeseman Mattias Ohlund sounds determined to play
The question was asked of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund on Tuesday if there had been any discussions about just shutting him down at this point of the season to give his badly sprained left ankle more time to heal and eliminate the possibility of aggravating the injury. But Ohlund said that is not a consideration.
"You're a professional athlete, and when you can play you play," he said.
"He comes to the rink every day expecting to play and trying to play," coach Rick Tocchet said. "You have to respect that about him."
Both Ohlund and left wing Ryan Malone, who had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee) are out. Both skated Tuesday morning. It sounds as if Ohlund is closer to getting into a game. Ohlund added that he will practice with the team on Wednesday and then be re-evaluated. Not that he is feeling 100 percent.
"That's the problem with these, it will take a long time until you're 100 percent. As far as pain, once you're playing, I don't think that's going to be a big issue. Right now, it's getting back in game shape, and hopefully the ankle will go up."
Ohlund has admitted having a disappointing season. He has zero goals and 13 assists in 59 games but also has struggled at times with puck possession and the speed of the game. Still, the 33-year-old is averaging 22:55 of ice time, a big chunk for the rest of the defense to eat up.
Other stuff from the morning skate: Seems as if Antero Niittymaki will start in net. ... Tampa Bay faces former teammate Jussi Jokinen, who has been a revelation for the Hurricanes this season with a team-best 27 goals. Carolina also is 17-3-4 when Jokinen scores, including two victories over Tampa Bay. Jokinen said he gets no particular pleasure showing the Lightning it made a mistake by trading him last season. "You just try to help out your team and try to do as good as you can," he said. Jokinen did not play well when he was with Tampa Bay. Tocchet said he even admitted that in a text message after he was traded. But Jokinen had a bad knee, and he did throw out one other tidbit that had not been revealed before: his dad, Keijo, died on March 1, 2009, after a long illness. He even said he went back to visit his father in Finland when the team traveled to Europe last season to play in the Czech Republic. In other words, his father was ill almost the entire season. Asked if that affected his play, Jokinen said, I don't want to use that as an excuse, but things like that, hockey is probably not No. 1 in your mind." ... Remember who Tampa Bay got for Jokinen? Wade Brookbank and Josef Melichar and a 2009 fourth-round draft pick. Brookbank never played for the Lightning and Melichar filled space on defense for the rest of the season and is now playing in the Czech Republic. ... Tocchet said he approached GM Brian Lawton about perhaps hiring former Lightning Gary Roberts as some kind of player development consultant or coach. Tocchet said he was interested in Roberts because "he's what winning is all about, how to get there." Roberts, who retired last season, has long been known as a fitness guru and is credited with helping Stven Stamkos gain strength last summer. Steve Downie said he will join Stamkos next summer to train with Roberts. "I would love to have Gary here," Tocchet said. "But that's for future discussion." ... Tocchet said watch out for the Coyotes and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in the playoffs. "Their defense is very good, and when you have a very god defense and an MVP goalie, you can play that four-line system. They're going to surprise people in the playoffs. That goalie can win them rounds, and if they have a couple guys get hot, they're a team that can come out of the West, believe it or not." ... We discussed in the paper last Sunday how rookie defenseman Victor Hedman might have hit a wall physically. After all, the 19-year-old had never played more than 44 games in his native Sweden, and is now up to 69 in the NHL while averaging 21:11 of ice time. Hedman said he did not believe he is tiring out, and Tocchet said Tuesday Hedman's downturn in play might have more to do with confidence. "He would make mistakes and it was in our net every time for about two weeks there, and I think that weighs on you," Tocchet said. That said, Tocchet added, "This has been a great year for him in that his learning curve next year is going to be a lot higher." ... For those of you who knew Lou Jankowski, the former NHL player who hung around the Lightning as if it was his second family, and who died Sunday at age 78, his family has asked that donations be made in Lou's name to Kidsport Alberta. Go to kidsportcanada.ca.