Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Filppula returns to Detroit in top form with Lightning

DETROIT — For Lightning center Valtteri Filppula, facing his former team for the first time tonight at Joe Louis Arena will be the easy part.

Much tougher, he said, would be Friday dinner with some of his former Red Wings teammates.

"I'll probably have to pay," Filppula said, laughing.

Seriously, though, the timing could not be better for Filppula to return to the city where in 2005 he began his NHL career and in 2008 got his name on the Red Wings' wall of champions by winning a Stanley Cup.

The Lightning (11-4-0), winner of three straight and six of seven, is first in the Atlantic Division. Detroit is third.

"A pretty cool setup," Filppula said.

As notable, though, is how seamlessly Filppula, 29, has slid into his role as Tampa Bay's No. 2 center after signing a five-year, $25 million free agent contract in the offseason.

His six goals are third on the team and just three fewer than he had last season for Detroit in an injury-filled, lockout-shortened season.

His 12 points are tied for third on the team. He has won 54.6 percent of his faceoffs. He anchors the second power-play unit, has dazzled with his passing and puck-possession skills, and has impressed with his commitment to defense.

Okay, so he doesn't shoot enough, but he makes the most of the shots he takes. His 35.3 shooting percentage (six goals on 17 shots) is a league best.

"For us," coach Jon Cooper said, "he's been a home run."

None of it, though, has diminished the respect Filppula said he has for the Red Wings, for whom he played 483 games in eight seasons and had 100 goals and 251 points.

"I got to see, I got to watch, I got to play with some really, really good players and see how they play and do off-ice stuff," said the 6-foot-1, 193-pounder, who signed with Detroit as a free agent from Finland. "I learned a lot. It's definitely going to help me the rest of my career."

Most important, though, was what Filppula called an organizational philosophy that "everything was even keel."

"You expect to win, and if you win, it wasn't a huge celebration," he said. "If you lose, you knew you were going to come back. You stayed the whole season on the same course."

It is a sensibility that suits Filppula, who Cooper said "has a quiet confidence about himself" and "ice in his veins on the ice."

"He's just stabilized our forward group," Cooper said. "He gets those unsung-hero minutes. He's out there against the big lines at big times of the game, taking the big faceoffs. He just quietly goes about his business."

His teammates have adjusted.

"It's taken some time to get used to, but we're starting to build some chemistry," linemate Teddy Purcell said. "Because he holds the puck so much, you've got to get away from him and let him do his thing and get open."

As for tonight, Filppula said he will measure the reunion only by the game's outcome. Extra credit will be finding his way to the visitors' locker room and keeping his sense of direction on the ice.

"I just hope I don't change (shifts) at the wrong bench," Filppula said.

. Tonight

Lightning at Red Wings

When/where: 7; Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: The Lightning is 1-13-0 with a tie at Detroit. Since Tampa Bay's only victory (4-2 on Jan. 12, 1994), it is 0-10-1 with three straight losses. … C Steven Stamkos has goals in five straight games (the league's longest active streak) and eight goals, four assists in a seven-game points streak. … G Ben Bishop is tied for the league lead with 10 wins. … Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk has a league-best 28 takeaways. … Detroit has outscored opponents 16-9 in the first period.

Filppula returns to Detroit in top form with Lightning 11/08/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 8, 2013 11:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. ‘Biggest fight' behind her, Petra Kvitova returns ahead of schedule


    PARIS — Five months after a home invader's knife sliced into her left hand, Petra Kvitova will return to competitive tennis at the French Open, a last-minute decision to make her comeback earlier than expected.

    Petra Kvitova adjusts her hair during a news conference at Roland Garros Stadium, where she will make her tennis return at the French Open. Kvitova's left hand was badly injured by a knife-wielding intruder in December; she has recovered ahead of schedule. [Associated Press]
  2. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans


    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  3. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?


    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  4. Rays at Twins, 2:10 p.m. Saturday, Minneapolis

    The Heater

    Today: at Twins

    2:10, Target Field, Minneapolis

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

  5. State baseball: Unbeaten Calvary Christian makes it 29 straight wins, reaches final


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian is one game from season-long perfection. And its first state championship.

     Calvary Christian players celebrate their win after the FHSAA class 4A semi-final against American Heritage on Friday May 26, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary defeated American Heritage 7 to 1. Calvary takes on Pensacola Catholic in the championship tomorrow night, at Hammond Stadium.