Make us your home page
Instagram

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning maintains high hopes for Barberio

Lightning rookie defenseman Mark Barberio said his passion for hockey — and soccer, for that matter — was partly sparked by his grandfather Angelo.

Angelo and his wife, Lidia, were Italian immigrants that helped raise Barberio in Quebec City while his parents worked.

"We were really close," Barberio said.

That's what made it so tough for Barberio, 23, last fall. He felt so close to realizing his NHL dream when Angelo died just before the start of the AHL season.

Angelo, who had diabetes and pancreatic cancer, got to watch a few of Barberio's AHL games on television.

Barberio made his NHL debut on Tuesday in his first "surreal" week with the Lightning, a week that continues with tonight's game against Washington.

"He had a big part in me making it here for sure," Barberio said of his grandfather. "I'm just hoping he's watching me now, because I know he'd be proud."

It's been a long journey for Barberio, the team's sixth-round draft pick in 2008. The Lightning hopes the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder can grow into the kind of poised, puck-moving defenseman and power-play point man it has sought since trading Dan Boyle in 2008.

Barberio has the flair and offensive ability, as seen by his 61 points in becoming the AHL's top defenseman in 2011-12 and 40 points in becoming a second-team all-star selection this year.

"There's a dynamic piece to him, and he's just that guy if you're down a goal, 'Barbs' somehow finds a way," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "He'll end up on the score sheet at some point with the tying goal."

The Lightning has taken a patient approach with Barberio, slowly bringing him along in nearly two full seasons in the AHL. Cooper, who coached Barberio at AHL Norfolk and Syracuse, said Barberio wasn't put on the power play right away and wasn't used on the penalty kill until this season.

Barberio understood the slow process, which made him the team's seventh rookie callup this year. He said that in his first AHL season, he'd "almost run around like a chicken with its head cut off." But he believes his defense is much improved and he learned to be more relaxed and calm in the defensive zone, letting plays come to him rather than forcing things.

"You're talking about being spoon fed," Cooper said. "He takes it, he eats it, he digests it, and he becomes good at it, and you give him something else. He's been able to handle it, but it took three years."

Danny Flynn, who coached Barberio for three years at Moncton in the Quebec Major junior league, believes it's a testament to his determination and commitment. Flynn pointed out that Barberio has helped win championships in two of his past three seasons (for Moncton in 2009-10 and the AHL Calder Cup last season with Norfolk) and shows little fear in big moments.

Flynn will never forget the "Peter Forsberg-type move" Barberio made for the winning goal in a shootout against Patrick Roy's junior team, the Quebec Remparts, in front of 14,000 fans in Quebec City.

"You don't see a defenseman try something as slick as that," Flynn said. "But he walked in cool as a cucumber."

Barberio has kept his cool since getting his dream callup Monday, holding his own in two games, Tuesday against the Senators and Thursday against the Penguins. Cooper said he wasn't perfect but "as good as we hoped he could be."

"When they thought I was ready, they've given me the chance," Barberio said. "I've just got to make the most of it."

And make his grandfather proud.

ROSTER MOVE: The team reassigned forwards Brett Connolly and Tyler Johnson to Syracuse on Friday.

Lightning maintains high hopes for Barberio 04/12/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 10:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested on a DUI charge Monday in Jupiter, according to the Palm Beach County sheriff's office.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.
  2. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside

    Outdoors

    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)
  3. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win

    Blogs

    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

    Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays celebrates as teammate Michael Martinez slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Minnesota Twins during the 14th inning.
  4. Rays journal: Erasmo Ramirez ready to start a day after closing game

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Erasmo Ramirez was on the mound to finish Sunday's 15-inning marathon win over the Twins and will start tonight's game against the Rangers.

    The Rays’ Erasmo Ramirez throws 12 pitches in the 15th inning against the Twins to earn the save then says after the game that he’s ready to make his scheduled start against the Rangers: “My arm feels good.”
  5. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.