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Injuries, poor veteran play have Tampa Bay Lightning starting youth movement

TAMPA — With the callup of D Matt Smaby from AHL Norfolk, the Lightning continued a youth movement prompted by injuries but that allows it to tweak some perhaps too comfortable veterans.

"Sometimes you need a little kick, not so much from the coaches but from younger kids," coach Rick Tocchet said. "We need some guys to push people, and these kids are going to do that."

Tampa Bay also has called up forwards Steve Downie, Radek Smolenak and Paul Szczechura, all of whom joined Smaby in Thursday's lineup against Boston.

"The kids (Tuesday at Philadelphia) gave us a lot of energy, and Smaby deserves a chance," Tocchet said. "The ship is leaving, and we're taking the guys who want to play. These guys are our future. We want to see what they've got."

Smaby had a game-high five hits and had two blocks. Downie had two hits and three shots, and Szczechura had three shots.

"What I like about those guys is they don't think of slumps. They don't think of losses right now," Tocchet said. "They're just out there playing, having fun. I'm excited about those kids. They're playing good."

HALPERN'S RETURN: C Jeff Halpern (knee) is cleared for contact and said he might be ready to play Dec. 18 against the Avalanche or Dec. 20 at Atlanta.

"After the next road trip we'll be getting close," he said of the four-game trip Monday through Dec. 13. "Whether it's the next game or the game after, and we have to see how the team is doing. … The coach has to be confident with what I can do."

"We can use him," GM Brian Lawton said. "We love his skill and leadership. But we don't rush players here."

"I want to make sure I'm able to contribute and not be a liability on the ice," Halpern said.

URGENCY WANTED: Evgeny Artyukhin was a healthy scratch for the second time in three games. Tocchet said the right wing has the "physical tools … but we're having a difficult time relaying the message how important is the urgency of the game. I don't know if he paces himself. I haven't quite figured it out. I like the kid, but he's having a tough time with the mental aspect of hockey."

ODDS AND ENDS: C Vinny Lecavalier's franchise-best 340th assist broke a tie with Brad Richards. He had a game-best seven shots and won 16 of 25 faceoffs. … Tampa Bay allowed a short-handed goal for the second straight game. … Prospects G Dustin Tokarski and C Dana Tyrell were invited to Canada's tryout camp for the world junior championship. … D Mike Lundin, C Chris Gratton (knee), LW Gary Roberts (groin), RW Radim Vrbata (groin) and LW Matt Pettinger (knee) also were scratched.

Injuries, poor veteran play have Tampa Bay Lightning starting youth movement 12/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 8, 2008 11:49am]
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