Lightning assistant Steve Thomas excited to see son's NHL debut
Lightning assistant Steve Thomas was in hustle mode Saturday afternoon, but he had a special reason.
Thomas left the team in a rush, and will miss tonight’s game against the Hurricanes in order to make it to Montreal to see his son, Christian, 20, make his NHL debut with the Rangers.
Thomas, who played 20 years in the NHL, jumped in a cab after Tampa Bay’s morning skate Saturday, with a connection through Newark scheduled to land just before faceoff.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” Thomas said. “We had him on skates since he was three years old, and he’s always loved the game, he’s always watched hockey, he watched me when I was playing, and was around NHL dressing rooms. It’s always been his dream to be an NHL player since he was three until now. He’s 20, it’s been a long time, a lot of hard work, and he finally got his chance. Now it’s just a matter of doing the best with what you got.”
Christian, a 5-foot-9 right wing, is one of the Rangers top prospects, their second round pick in 2010. With star Rick Nash going on injured reserve, coaches in AHL Connecticut told all their players to pack a passport just in case. And Christian found out the news Friday afternoon.
“He’s nervous,” Thomas said, smiling. “And I don’t know who is more nervous, me or him.”
Other notes from the morning skate: Mathieu Garon will start in net for the Lightning, and ex-Tampa Bay goalie Dan Ellis gets the nod for the Hurricanes....Lightning coach Guy Boucher said they'll have the same lineup tonight, liking how his four lines are coming together...D Keith Aulie (illness) will be out again, but skated this morning and said he's feeling much better. Aulie is trying to regain his strength, and gain weight, after losing 10 pounds since Wednesday night. Boucher said Aulie could be back Sunday against Pittsburgh... Boucher lauded Marc-Andre Bergeron for stepping in, "He's brought something that we were lacking," Boucher said. "He's a puck manager, hes' very poised with the puck. He gives us the possibility on breakouts and transition for our guys to be able to take off as forwards with speed." .Boucher said he's been pleased with Tampa Bay's last three games, even a 4-2 loss to Boston, "If we would have played Boston two weeks before, we would have got our butts kicked. But we were right there with them." Boucher believes the Lightning is finally starting to find his identity. One part of that has been splitting up Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, who are each becoming "leaders" on their own lines and has helped the Lightning "spread the wealth."
- JOE SMITH