Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Brendan Mikkelson proves a valuable pickup for Tampa Bay Lightning

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Say this for Brendan Mikkelson, he doesn't hide from his mistakes.

After a 3-1 loss to the Kings on Feb. 7, the Lightning defenseman volunteered that his blown assignment led to Los Angeles' last goal.

After a 4-3 overtime loss to the Rangers on Thursday, he bemoaned not handling a bouncing puck during the sequence that led to the winning goal.

"Always," he said, "there is work to be done."

Big picture, Mikkelson's work has been more positive than negative since he was acquired last month from the Flames.

He has zero points but still is plus-1 in 15 games while averaging 13:49 of ice time, and his big shot and puck smarts earned him a spot on the power play.

It is the kind of opportunity Mikkelson wasn't getting while buried in Calgary's minor-league system. And if he carves out a niche, he will be a valuable addition for an organization desperate to add blue-line depth.

"It's good that at least you get a chance," Mikkelson said. "That's all you want. Now, it boils down to producing."

Mikkelson, 24, traded for underachieving center Blair Jones, has deep hockey roots.

His father, Bill, played 147 games in the '70s with the Kings, Islanders and Capitals. And sister Meaghan, also a defenseman, won gold with Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Still, Mikkelson, 6 feet 3, 205 pounds, from Regina, Saskatchewan, has bounced between the minors and the NHL since he was drafted 31st overall in 2005 by the Ducks.

When the Lightning faces the Senators tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, it will be just his 102nd NHL game.

"I know he was a seventh D in Calgary and he was in the minors, but for us he's brought size, he's brought mobility and he's smart with the puck," coach Guy Boucher said. "We needed all of that."

"He's got that size and long reach," defensive partner Bruno Gervais said. "He's strong on the puck and can make some plays, and he can really skate."

One problem, Gervais deadpanned, "He's got an average personality."

Actually, Mikkelson is unflinchingly analytical.

Asked if he believed he got a fair shake in Calgary, he said, "arguing the point would be wasting my time" because general manager Jay Feaster and coach Brent Sutter "know the game awfully well. … As long as you handle it personally that you've done everything you can."

Asked how he's fitting in with the Lightning, he said, "It's still a work in progress. I think I still have to earn their trust to be a reliable player. It's been good to get a chance to get some minutes in different scenarios, but you never want to say mission accomplished."

In that sense, he and the team are on the same page.

"Nothing is long term," Boucher said of the plans for Mikkelson. "Everything is short term to win games. There's no experiments. We give him a chance and because he responds well, I keep giving him a chance.

"He's really seized the day," Boucher added. "He's got to keep seizing it."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

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