DIRK SHADD | Times
Ben Bishop will make his fourth consecutive start to start the season.
The Lightning will face arguably its toughest test of the young season tonight in an NBCSN-televised showdown with the Red Wings.
And Tampa Bay is going with its No. 1 goalie, Ben Bishop, who will make his fourth consecutive start to start the season. Though this is a back-to-back situation, it's unique, with Monday being a day game in Boston and tonight a 7:30 p.m. start. Bishop said Monday, "(coach Jon Cooper) knows I'll be ready if he needs me."
Tampa Bay will need a strong performance to beat the Red Wings (2-0), whom still have a bitter taste in their mouths after losing in seven games in a thrilling first-round series in April. Detroit, led by new coach Jeff Blashill, a close personal friend of Cooper, the team added veterans Brad Richards and Mike Green in the offseason, as well as touted wing prospect Dylan Larkin.
"I look back at the playoffs and we eeked through that series, and we needed everything we possibly could to get through that series," Cooper said. "They've gone from an extremely good team to give-me-another-adjective. Not only are they a playoff team, they're a division title contender. That's how good they are." …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Goalie Ben Bishop celebrates with his teammates after the Lightning's Game 7 win over the New York Rangers in the 2015 Eastern Conference final.
Owner Jeff Vinik said he wanted to turn the Lightning into a "world class franchise," akin to a Green Bay Packers.
And, according to ESPN's Ultimate Ratings, the Lightning is ranked ahead of the Packers - Tampa Bay is No. 3 overall across all sports - and No. 1 in the NHL.
ESPN has done these annual rankings, looking at attributes like coaching, ownership, fan relations, affordability and stadium experience. The Lightning, coming off its run to the Stanley Cup Final, was the top-ranked NHL team for the second time (also in 2011, when it was No. 2 overall behind the Packers).
The only pro sports franchises ahead of them in this year's rankings are the Spurs and Grizzlies. What ESPN wrote on the good things for Lightning. …Full Story
Captain Steven Stamkos has had many painful memories at TD Garden.
He took a shot off the face in a 1-0 Game 7 loss in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final.
He broke his right leg crashing into the goalpost November 12, 2013.
He lost 10 consecutive regular-season games in this building, the Lightning's house of horrors.
But Stamkos, 25, flipped the script Monday, making history in notching his 500th career point in a 6-3 come-from-behind win over the Bruins. It was Tampa Bay's first regular-season victory here since Mar. 25, 2010. The way Stamkos scored his milestone goal was fitting, a rocket one-timer from the left circle on the power play.
"He's probably had 250 of those," defenseman Victor Hedman quipped. "Haven't seen that in a while, though. Typical Stammer right there."
Stamkos, who now has 278 goals and 222 assists, knew he was one shy of No. 500, collecting the souvenir puck.
"It's special," Stamkos said. "You never know how much opportunity, or how long you're going to be around in the league. So to get 500 points, I think I'm very fortunate. You think of all the people that helped you along the way to get to this point. It's pretty cool." …Full Story
While most of the Lightning roster remains the same from last season, there's been a significant change in the broadcast booth.
Brian Engblom took over as color analyst for Fox Sports Sun, replacing Bobby "The Chief" Taylor, who is now in an intermission/pre-post game role.
Engblom, 60, a former NHL defenseman and three-time Stanley Cup champion, is a veteran broadcaster, having spent most of his time recently in a national role, with NBC, previously with ESPN and ESPN2.
But Engblom has enjoyed focusing on being part of a team again, and has meshed well with play-by-play man Rick Peckham. Englbom, who enjoyed his "Between the Benches" role for NBC, will be down there for about half the home games, and some road games, otherwise joining Peckham in the booth. The Times caught up with Engblom recently to chat about adjusting to the new role, and the Lightning's chances of returning to the final this season.
Q: How are you enjoying the new gig, being part of the team again?
A: That's what I missed the most, that interaction every day, and the feeling of being connecteed to a team. It makes a huge difference.
Q: Finding some chemistry with Peckham? …Full Story
Vinny Lecavalier will be a healthy scratch for the Flyers again as they open the season tonight against the Lightning.
Vinny Lecavalier hasn't played for the Lightning for two years now, but he says it's still a special feeling getting back on the Amalie Arena ice.
"It reminds you of so many things," he said. "Pretty cool."
Lecavalier. 35, was former Lightning captain, the face of the franchise, winning a Cup here in 2004. That's why it makes it especially tough for Lecavalier to be a healthy scratch for the Flyers again as they open the season tonight against the Lightning. Lecavalier, scratched last season (17 games) for the first time in his career, found out 10 days ago he wouldn't be playing.
"The toughest thing is not physically being out there and playing with the puck, it's mentallly," Lecavalier said. "It can't creep up on you, I still have that confidence that if I'm put in a situation, I know I can still play the game. I believe in myself, and that's all that matters honestly. It is hard. I want to play." …Full Story
TOM JONES | Times
Lightning players prep for the season opener during the morning skate Thursday at Amalie Arena.
There will be a little pomp and circumstance tonight, with the Lightning unveiling its Eastern Conference championship banner at Amalie Arena.
It's opening night for Tampa Bay, coming off its remarkable run to the Stanley Cup Final, and there's a different feel as the team prepares to face the Flyers.
"Two years ago, it was a little bit more of us against the world type of attitude that nobody really cared about us," coach Jon Cooper said. "Now it's different because it's eyes-wide open now. We're not sneaking up on anyone this year."
With 11 of the first 16 games on the road, the Lightning emphasized the importance of a strong start, if it wants to even make the playoffs.
"This is the hardest opening month we've had," goalie Ben Bishop said. "We need to be in teh playoff picture at the end."
Cooper and captain Steven Stamkos said there will be a sense of accomplishment, some pride, when the banner is unveiled. But Stamkos believes it'll be short and sweet, quickly reminiscing before refocusing.
"Move on," he said. "And hope to win a game tonight." …Full Story
Courtesy of Paul Kennedy, Fox Sports Sun
Rays pitchers Matt Moore, left, and Jake Odorizzi were special guests at Lightning practice Wednesday morning.
Rays pitchers Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi were special guests at Lightning practice Wednesday morning, and there was one thing clear.
"I think they should probably stick to baseball," All-Star center Tyler Johnson joked.
Moore and Odorizzi got dressed in full Lightning gear, spending about an hour on the ice after practice. At the beginning, it was an adjustment, Moore staying close to the boards to prevent a fall. Odorizzi, who grew up watching some hockey, looked more comfortable, trying to take slap shots near the end. They both enjoyed the experience, saying it gave them even more respect for what hockey players can do.
"It's probably a lot like golf," Moore said. "If you don't play hockey by the age of 25, don't start."
There's been a great support between the two Tampa Bay professional teams, with several Rays becoming Bolts Social (Media) Captain; Evan Longoria will serve in that role for Thursday's opener. Several Lightning players took batting practice at the Trop in June, with Alex Cobb also skating after Lightning practice last season.
"You just give them the same advice I give my 5-year-old," coach Jon Cooper said. "Bend your legs, (butt) out, hope you don't fall."
DIRK SHADD | Times
Lightning center Tyler Johnson returned to practice Wednesday.
Lightning center Tyler Johnson returned to practice Wednesday, a good sign he might be available for Thursday's season opener.
Johnson suffered an undisclosed injury in the second period of Saturday's game and didn't return. He didn't practice Monday in Estero.
But Johnson looked good in Wednesday's skate, participating in all drills and rushes with his Triplets line.
"I feel great," Johnson said. "Ready to go."
Everyone was accounted for at practice, including Cedric Paquette (left foot), Alex Killorn (undisclosed) and Nikita Kucherov (lower body). Coach Jon Cooper said every player should be available Thursday, with the only concern Paquette's conditioning.
Lines were Drouin-Stamkos-Callahan/Triplets/Killorn-Filppula-Condra/Boyle-Namestnikov-brown. Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Lightning center Tyler Johnson, who is single, strongly denied a woman's claims on Monday's Jimmy Kimmmel show said she cheated on her boyfriend with Johnson.
When it comes to being a professional athlete, nothing appears private anymore.
And with social media, not everything is true.
Lightning center Tyler Johnson found that out the hard way. A woman during a segment on Monday's Jimmy Kimmmel show said the "most impressive" thing she's done is cheat on her boyfriend. And, she alleged after prodding, it was with Johnson.
Johnson, 25, who is single, strongly denied such claims.
"I have no idea who she is or why what was said was said, " Johnson wrote in a text message. "People can talk about that, but (that) doesn't mean it's true."
Kimmel, the late night talk show host, often does a segment where he questions people on the street on certain topics. With Nobel Prizes awarded this past week, the subject for Monday's segment was the "most impressive thing" they've done.
Judging from the other participants, it all seemed like a joke. One man said he saved a cat, by kicking it. Another woman said she biked across the ocean on a "water bicycle." So take this all with a grain of salt. …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Slater Koekkoek had an impressive camp, the former first round pick showing he belonged in a three-game NHL stint last season.
The Ligtning is finalizing its roster, sending several players down to AHL Syracuse to get down to 23 players.
Forwards Mike Angelidis and Jonathan Marchessault, who both cleared waivers, were reassigned to the Crunch, as was goalie Kristers Gudlevskis and defenseman Luke Witkowski.
As of now, it appears that Kevin Poulin will be the temporary backup goalie to Ben Bishop, and that Slater Koekkoek and Nikita Nesterov are on the team. Things could change before tonight's 5 p.m. deadline, but that's where Tampa Bay is at now.
Coach Jon Cooper said they were leaning towards carrying seven defensemen, and currently they have eight. The fact goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (vascular surgery) is on injured reserve gets Tampa Bay down to 23.
Koekkoek had an impressive camp, the former first round pick showing he belonged in a three-game NHL stint last season. A left-shot, Koekkoek is a strong puck mover, as is Nesterov, who served as seventh defenseman in the lineup during the playoffs, getting ice time on the power play.
DIRK SHADD | Times
Andrei Vasilevskiy, encouraged in his recovery from early-September vascular surgery, hopes to return to the NHL by the end of October.
It sounds like whomever the Lightning picks to be the temporary backup goalie may not be needed very long.
That's because goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is encouraged in his recovery from early-September vascular surgery, hopes to return to the NHL by the end of October. Vasilevskiy, who had surgery to remove a blood clot from his left collarbone Sept. 3, did an on-ice workout with with goalie coach Frantz Jean before Monday's practice, facing shots from close range.
"I'm feeling great, almost ready to go," Vasilevskiy said. "I can do almost everything I want. Every move."
The only thing holding Vasilevskiy back is the fact he's still on blood thinners, which is restricting him from facing shots in the left shoulder area. But Vasilevskiy has an appointment with Dr. Karl Illig, who performed the surgery, on Oct. 21, with the chance he's cleared then to return to full practice. Vasilevskiy thinks he'll need a couple games with AHL Syracuse for a conditioning assignment before returning to his expected role as Ben Bishop's backup.
"That's it," he said. "Season starts for me." …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Wing Alex Killorn returned to practice Monday.
While wing Alex Killorn returned to practice Monday, All-Star center Tyler Johnson remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury suffered Saturday against the Panthers.
Killorn, who also had an undisclosed injury Saturday, was on the ice at Germain Arena, along with fellow injured Lightning forwards Nikita Kucherov (lower body) and Cedric Paquette (left foot). Paquette was in his first full practice since getting hurt Sept. 26, though he did not participate in line rushes.
Johnson played only two shifts on Saturday before exiting. He's considered day-to-day. Vladislav Namestnikov took Johnson's spot on the Triplets line today.
It should be an interesting day, with players around the league put on waivers today, and final rosters due Tuesday afternoon. Forward Jonathan Marchessault is not at practice, likely to be put on waivers with hopes he can return to AHL Syracuse.
Mike Angelidis, Slater Koekkoek, as well as both backup goalie candidates Kevin Poulin and Kristers Gudlevskis, are at practice. So is starter Ben Bishop. …Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Get an up-close look at what some of the Lightning players are like off the ice in our exclusive new video series.
With the Lightning season opening up on Thursday, the Times decided to give readers an up-close look at what some of the players are like off the ice.
How good of a handyman is wing Ryan Callahan? What "Friends" star did Brian Boyle meet while in New York? Who was the "Big Bad Wolf" 'for Halloween? How did Tyler Johnson meet Wayne Gretzky, and how was dinner at the Great One's house? How exactly did Alex Killorn get into Harvard? What sparked Victor Hedman's passion for flying planes?
Find out to all these questions, and more, with a video project put together by Times photographer Dirk Shadd and myself. Enjoy!Full Story
DIRK SHADD | Times
Tyler Johnson played just two shifts in the second period before leaving Saturday.
The Lightning got some encouraging news on the injury front Sunday, as All-Star center Tyler Johnson and wing Alex Killorn are both considered just day-to-day with undisclosed injuries, general manager Steve Yzerman said.
Both got hurt in Saturday's exhibition finale against the Panthers in Sunrise, with Johnson playing just two shifts in the second period before leaving. Killorn played only a couple shifts in the third period before exiting.
Wing Nikita Kucherov (lower body) was also held out of Saturday's game as a precaution, despite participating in the morning skate. Center Cedric Paquette (left foot) has been day-to-day for a week, though coach Jon Cooper expects him to return to practice Monday in Estero.
The season opener is Thursday night against the Flyers.
"I'm hoping that everyone will be ready for Thursday," Yzerman said. …Full Story
Wing Nikita Kucherov was back at Saturday's morning skate, and plans to play tonight in the exhibition finale against the Panthers, which is an encouraging sign for the Lightning.
Kucherov had suffered a lower-body injury early in Thursday's 3-2 win over Dallas, briefly trying to test it before leaving the game for good. He said there's still some pain, but it shouldn't hold him back heading into the season.
"I felt like I couldn't play because my leg wasn't good, so that's why I decided to not force it," Kucherov said. "I'm just glad it wasn't a knee or something else."
In other injury news, center Cedric Paquette continues to be sidelined with a left foot injury suffered last Saturday in Dallas, but Cooper said the gritty forward will return to full participation in Monday's practice in Estero. And there's no concern over Paquette's injury impacting the start of the season. "I wouldn't think so," Cooper said. …Full Story