That wall is cursed, and Halpern's knee
The Lightning seems to believe that a 47-foot tall ad space on the side of the St. Pete Times Forum is cursed. Laugh if you want, but the team has taken steps, really, to, as senior director of marketing Mark Gullett said, "reverse the curse."
First, though, some background. Last season the Lightning featured goaltender Marc Denis in the space at the corner of Morgan Street and Channelside Drive. He was so bad, his contract was bought out. A recent display of No. 1 draft choice Steve Stamkos had to be removed because Stamkos was shown incorrectly as a left-handed shot. The replacement also included defenseman Dan Boyle, who, oops, was almost immediately traded.
So Gullett said the team has determined a player will never again adorn the space. Gullett also said the current picture of the Times Forum and other buildings of the Tampa skyline has design elements to "reverse the curse."
Gullett would not elaborate but said they are so small, you probably need binoculars to see them.
"That sign ruined my last two weeks," Gullett said. "That sign on the wall has been such a curse, we decided to have some fun with it."
We'll have a story, too, in Thursday's paper, and if anyone can figure out what owner Oren Koules called the "magic" in the sign, send me an e-mail and let me know.
- Jeff Halpern's knee is responding slowly, and the center likely won't be back in the lineup before Christmas. When Halpern underwent reconstructive surgery on his right knee, the window for his return was the end of October to the end of December. Seems as if the Lightning is shooting for the later of the dates.
"It's a big injury," said Brian Lawton, the Lightning's vice president of hockey operations. "There was a lot of atrophy.
The injury makes the return of Ryan Craig from injury and the signing of Chris Gratton that much more important. Adam Hall and Wyatt Smith could also fill in in a pinch. Lawton said Halpern will not be rushed.
"The athletes come first," Lawton said. "We've put some depth in the organization. We're just going to have to be able to fill in with a plan."
- Lawton said Mike Sullivan and Jeff Reese, assistants for former coach John Tortorella, and whom have one year each left on their contracts, are talking to other clubs. He also said the entire medical and training staffs have been retained, as has video coach Nigel Kirwan.
- Big Russian Evgeny Atyukhin said he wants to prove the two years he spent in Russia were not wasted. "I want to show everybody I can play in the NHL," he said, "and not only on the fourth line."
Artyukhin said he knows coach Barry Melrose only from what he has seen on ESPN. "He's a good talker and has good style," Artyukhin said. "His suits are impressive."
- We all know the story of how Ryan Malone, acquired as a free agent from the Penguins, missed only a few minutes of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final after his nose was broken by a shot. But how did it feel?
"I thought my face was dented in," Malone said.
Malone said he did not consider sitting out despite difficulty breathing.
"You never know when you're going to get there," he said of the Cup final. "You want to make sure you leave it all out there. You don't want to leave anything in the tank, that's for sure."
- Defenseman Matt Carle said all the right things about how he does not believe he has to take the place of defenseman Dan Boyle.
"I don't think it falls on my shoulders," he said. "There's a lot of good, young defensemen on this team. The combination of all of us together will make up for what Dan Boyle brought to the table."
That's fine intellectually, but surely he sees the Dan Boyle going out, Matt Carle coming in story line.
"All I can say is I'll work hard and try to improve my game to get it to that level," he said.
"I hope people don't expect me to be a Dan Boyle right off the bat," Carle, 23, added. "He's played int he league quite a while. It's something I hope to become sooner rather than later. I've been working very hard this summer and will work hard next season to keep developing my game and become a player o that caliber."
- I loved this quote from Gary Roberts, 42, who spoke about he and Mark Recchi, 40, lending veteran leadership but not stepping on toes.
"This is Vinny's team and Marty's team," Roberts said of Lecavalier and St. Louis. "We're just here to complement those guys. I'm just excited to be part of it. As and older guy, you come in and you do your job the way you've done it for 20 years. That's not going to change. At some point, will I offer advice, or Mark? Probably. But we're not going to walk in here and rant and rave and try to make changes. Whether you play 20 years or one year, you have to gain the respect of your teammates."
I know that's a lot of stuff, but wanted to give you all a flavor for the day.