Tampa Bay Lightning send defenseman Mike Lundin back to Norfolk; Ohlund to play
The Tampa Bay Lightning sent defenseman Mike Lundin back to AHL Norfolk. That lessens the Lightning's logjam on the blue line.
The team is down to eight defensemen now, not including Paul Ranger. And with Kurtis Foster being used at forward (and flourishing, by the way), really, the team has only seven. Matt Smaby is the odd man out tonight against the Avalanche, as Mattias Ohlund gets back into the action after missing seven games with a right ankle problem.
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said having so many defensemen is a good problem to have, but also said, "Maybe somebody has to get moved, eventually. I don't know, but ti's something we have to figure out soon."
Mostly because the glut, for now, is keeping Smaby off the ice and a good defenseman like Lundin down in the minors. Smaby has yet to play an NHL game this season . Lundin was sent back to the minors despite playing very well in four games with Tampa Bay in which he was minus-2 and averaged 16:59 in ice time.
In fact, Tocchet had great things to say about him: "He's a strong player. He can get underneath people and throw people around. He's chased down some of the best players in the world in (Ilya) Kovalchuk and (Marian) Gaborik. His poke check is as good as (Victor) Hedman. He's got a very good stick. ... He's an NHL defenseman."
But he also has a two-way contract and does not have to clear re-entry waivers waivers, so until the blue line is cleared out some, he will stay in the minors, it seems.
Other stuff from the morning skate: Antero Niittymaki will start in net. ... The Lightning power play has goals in seven straight games and in 10 of 11, going 12-for-46 in that span (26 percent). Part of the success story is the team has two distinct units -- other than Marty St. Louis, who plays almost the entire two minutes on the point. Other than that, you have Vinny Lecavalier, Alex Tanguay and Jeff Halpern on one unit and Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone and Steve Downie on the other. The second point person rotates between Foster, Andrej Meszaros, Ohlund and maybe a little Hedman. "You have two units, you have competition," Tocchet said. And that certainly does factor into it as one unit doesn't want to lose time to the other if it is clicking. "And for the most part," Tocchet said, "having two units have given the guys more energy." ... Another change has been to move Lecavalier off the point and back to his more-familiar half wall position. "It was to get him a little more involved," Tocchet said. "I thought we were a little bit too stagnant with him on the point. And, quite frankly, we were giving up too many shorthanded chances against. We couldn't have it." ... Another good move has been to put Halpern on right wing on a line with Lecavalier and Tanguay. Halpern, of course, is a natural center. But as Tocchet said, "I think Jeff Halpern, since I put him on the wing, has been one of our best forwards. I like him there." Halpern has a goal and an assist and 10 shots in four games since he has been moved. "I don't know if it's so much a career change for him, but since going on the wing, he has really upped his game for us. He's had a lot of chances and he's played good defensively, too," Tocchet said. ... Forward Paul Szczechura got what has become a traditional birthday shaving cream pie in the face. Szczechura is 24. The only player this season who has avoided the birthday pie is Tanguay, who turned 30 on Nov. 21. "I kept it quiet," Tanguay said. "Nobody knew until Stamkos found out, and it was too late by then," Tanguay said. ... Tocchet praised the line of Szczechura, Downie and James Wright. "They usually have the puck in the other team's end," he said. "They're a good, young line." ... The Lightning at 6-3-4 for 16 points already have had the second-best November in team history. The best: 2006-07, when it was 8-5-2 for 18 points. In other words, a win ties the record for most points in November.