Mikkelson, Labrie return to Lightning after conditioning assignments
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Brendan Mikkelson and right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie downplayed the effect they had for AHL Syracuse during their two-week conditioning assignments. That said, the Crunch won all seven games in which they played.
“That’s a pretty good team down there,” Mikkelson said. “They’re a close group of guys. That wins them a few games. (Coach Jon Cooper) does a great job of creating that team-like environment that is so positive. That was good.”
Mikkelson and Labrie are back with Tampa Bay as they would have had to clear waivers to remain with Syracuse beyond the two weeks of the assignment. With Sami Salo out because of a lower-body injury, Mikelson will play tonight against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It is believed Labrie, a scratch tonight, will see the ice Saturday at Boston.
Neither had been playing much with Tampa Bay. Mikkelson was in two games and had an assist before he was sent down. Labrie was in three games. Both flourished with Syracuse. Mikkelson had an assist and was plus-4 in seven games. Labrie had three goals and five points.
“It was just good to be in the lineup and get some good ice time and be in those game scenarios that are pretty hard to replicate no matter what you do, plays under pressure, when you know a guys is coming to take your heard off the sense of how you have to read the play quickly is the biggest thing,” Mikkelson said.
“It was fun,” Labrie said. “It was fun to win.”
In fact, with the Crunch on an eight-game winning streak, Mikkelson said the players who last season were with Calder Cup champion Norfolk, which also set a North American pro hockey record of 28 straight regular-season wins, are becoming just as confident.
“A few said they were getting the same sense of the team last year and how things were just rolling,” Mikkelson said.
Other stuff from the morning skate: A scary moment came during the morning skate when right wing Teddy Purcell lost his footing and crashed into the end boards at Madison Square Garden. Purcell was quickly on his feet but later said his stick cross-checked him in the jaw as he hit the boards, which also made contact with his shoulder. “Good thing I didn’t get hurt,” Purcell said. … As expected, Mathieu Garon gets the start in net tonight. … F Adam Hall also will be scratched for the second straight game and third time in six games. Asked if the adjustment from regular player to part-time scratch was difficult, he said, “Anybody at this level is a competitive person by nature. I’m no different. I want to be in there every single minute and every single play. But you try to focus on what you can control. You can control the effort and when I get a chance to be ready and be ready to perform and execute and play well and do whatever the team asks to help it win.” … Salo did not skate Thursday morning and Boucher was vague about when he might play again, saying it will be “soon.” … Boucher also was vague about left wing Ryan Malone, who will miss his 10th game tonight with a lower body injury. The coach seemed confident, though, Malone will join the team at some point on this four-game road trip. “We’re getting there,” Boucher said. “He’s a big part of our team, so we can’t wait to get him back.” … It seems as if Rick Nash will be back in the lineup for the Rangers after missing four games with an undisclosed injury some speculated was a concussion. Whatever the reason, Boucher said Nash will be “a handful” if he plays. “He’s got speed. He’s got size. He’s got reach,” Boucher said. “Very often you think you got him but you don’t.”