Finnish stint has Lightning goalie Anders Lindback refreshed, revived

As Anders Lindback discovered during his two months in Finland, there is nothing quite like a day at a traditional sauna.

Basically, it goes like this:

Get nice and toasty in a room heated to about 190 degrees. Go outside — it was 3 degrees the day Lindback spoke to the Tampa Bay Times — and jump into a lake through a hole cut in the ice. Then run back into the sauna.

"Well, it certainly is refreshing," Lindback said, laughing. "You do it real fast, and it helps your whole body. It's a little different but a great feeling."

Nice, but Lindback's European adventure was not about rest and recreation. With the Lightning dangling his first chance to be a No. 1 NHL goaltender, he could not afford to wait around for the lockout to end.

He needed to play. And his 13 games with Ilves Tampere in Tampere — 3-6-4 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .930 save percentage — not only helped refine a crucial aspect of Lindback's game, it bolstered the Lightning's confidence its gamble on the 6-foot-6 Swede, who has played just 38 NHL games, will pay off.

"He turned out pretty solid numbers with a last-place team, so that's interesting," Tampa Bay goaltenders coach Frantz Jean said. "It's the next step for him. He needs the opportunity to be a No. 1. He has the tools to be one."

Those tools include a solid glove and a competitive nature Jean called one of Lindback's "biggest pluses."

There also is this:

"He's got quick legs," Jean said. "A lot of times guys who are 6-6 are a little lanky, a little sloppy. They look slow. But he's extremely fast and crisp."

Lindback, 24, acquired and signed last summer to a two-year, $3.6 million deal, said he felt most comfortable playing in Finland.

Rinks there are closer in size to those in the NHL than the Olympic-sized rinks in much of Europe. He also worked with Ilves goaltenders coach Markus Korhonen, Lindback's teammate in 2007-08 for Sweden's Brynas.

Their main focus: Lindback's patience in net, letting plays come to him rather than always anticipating or challenging.

"I was overworking some situations," Lindback said. "It's like that when you haven't played for a while."

Perhaps, but Jean said Lindback was too aggressive at times during two seasons as backup to Nashville's Pekka Rinne.

"He doesn't need to chase the play," Jean said. "At 6-6 he can be more patient and sit back a little bit. That's an adjustment guys make with experience. He's kind of figuring out where he needs to stand to maximize his efficiency."

As for choosing to play in a country with rinks closer to NHL dimensions, Jean said, "That's actually pretty smart. Playing on smaller ice, you get more broken plays, more turnovers, more situations where if you're not prepared, you're on your heels."

Lindback is more on pins and needles waiting for the NHL to start playing games. His contract with Ilves is done, and his right knee, which needed stitches after being hit by a shot, is good as new.

"I'm excited for the opportunity in Tampa," Lindback said. "Sooner or later it's going to happen."

In the meantime, he can enjoy the sauna.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

Finnish stint has Lightning goalie Anders Lindback refreshed, revived 01/03/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 9:14pm]

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