Saturday, April 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

He's the Lightning's Chuck Norris

ST. LOUIS — Before every game, Lightning prospect Ondrej Palat weighs his sticks, not on a scale but by feel, with his hands.

It is a method he has used since playing for AHL Norfolk in 2011-12.

"Every stick is a little bit different, so I'm trying to find out which one is better," the left wing said. "I try to feel how light it is, how to tape it, small things. If it feels good, you know right away."

Hey, whatever works.

Chances are you haven't heard much about Ondrej Palat (pronounced AHN-dray pa-LOT). As the 208th overall draft pick of 2011, his arrival didn't get a lot of fanfare. He is generally quiet — "He speaks when spoken to," teammate Eric Neilson said — and thinks defense first.

But Palat, 22, is pushing as hard as anyone for a roster spot, and don't be surprised if he succeeds in getting one.

"He's just silently gone about his business," coach Jon Cooper said before the Lightning's 4-3 victory over the Blues on Friday night at the Scottrade Center. "The one thing I love about Palat is that he doesn't cheat the game, ever. He plays the game the right way. You can't have enough guys like him."

He also has a terrific nickname: Chuck Norris, after the martial arts television star.

"Because he really does everything," said center Tyler Johnson, who played with Palat in 2011-12 at Norfolk and last season at AHL Syracuse.

"You can count on him for anything. He's unbelievable."

A better description for Palat, 6 feet, 190 pounds, is versatile.

"You can put him on first line, fourth line, power play, penalty kill," Cooper said. "Maybe one day we'll throw some goalie pads on him and see if he can do it."

Cooper had a closeup view of Palat the past two seasons, having coached him at Norfolk and Syracuse. At both stops, Palat was part of a terrific line with Johnson and Richard Panik, both in the mix as well for spots with the Lightning.

They were such a dynamic combination — "We have the same mentality," Johnson said. "We like to be creative, but at the same time, we're all pretty good defensively," — Cooper has played them together during training camp.

Palat had 13 goals and 52 points and was plus-26 in 56 games last season for Syracuse. In a 14-game callup to the Lightning, he had two goals and four points and was plus-5 with an average 11:44 of ice time. His father, mother and sister kept avid track back home in the Czech Republic.

Friday against St. Louis, Palat had a goal, five shots and 20:04 of ice time. In Thursday's 5-1 victory over the Predators in Tampa, he had a goal (on a rush from the blue line with a deke), three shots, a hit, a takeaway and a blocked shot. He also backchecked hard enough to not only disrupt Viktor Stalberg's breakaway but separate him from the puck.

"Those plays go unheralded," Cooper said. "You've got to reward that kind of effort."

For Palat, the reward would be an NHL roster spot.

"I know I'm not here as a big star," he said. "As you said, I'm a little bit under the radar. It's my motivation. I just have to play my game with confidence."

With sticks that feel just right.

Comments
Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

BRANDON — Ryan McDonagh blocks shots. He competes for pucks in the corners and wins those battles. He moves the puck up the ice well. He can join the rush. He can shoot from the blue line. He kills penalties."It was a great pickup by (Lightning...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

BRANDON – Devils top defenseman Sami Vatanen had not traveled to Tampa as of Friday afternoon, according to coach John Hynes, and his availability for Game 5 Saturday against the Lightning is in doubt.Hynes, however, did not rule out Vatan...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Why Game 5 is crucial to the Lightning

Why Game 5 is crucial to the Lightning

BRANDON — Three things that popped into my head as the Lightning and Devils get ready to play Game 5 Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena.1. I'm going to do something that a hockey team in the playoffs would never do, not in a million years....
Published: 04/20/18
NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

The NHL got it right.Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning's top scorer and best player so far in these playoffs, will play Saturday's Game 5 against New Jersey. He's not going to be suspended for his vicious hit on a Devils player in Tampa Bay's Game 4 vic...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

The Lightning's Victor Hedman is a finalist for the second consecutive year for the Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the league. The other two finalists are Drew Doughty of the Kings and P.K. Subban of the Predators, it was announced Thu...
Published: 04/19/18
Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

TAMPA — The second period was not even four minutes old Wednesday night when Devils right wing Patrick Maroon skated all alone toward Andrei Vasilevskiy. It was a moment that could turn a game and even a series.A goal and the score would be tie...
Published: 04/19/18
Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Former UCF and Lakewood High standout Shaquem Griffin understandably has been focused on the NFL draft next week in Arlington, Tex., where he is projected as a potential second-day pick.But the Lightning's playoff run  hasn't escaped his attenti...
Published: 04/19/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Published: 04/19/18
Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

NEWARK, N.J. — The Devils pulled out all the stops for Wednesday's Game 4 of their Stanley Cup quarter final series with the Lightning by inviting David Puddy at the Prudential Center.For those who do not know who he is, Puddy was Elaine's...
Published: 04/19/18
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Published: 04/18/18