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Lightning needs good goaltending from Anders Lindback, Mathieu Garon

TAMPA — Anders Lindback claims he does not get nervous before games.

No butterflies, no anxiety, nothing.

"I don't know why," the Lightning goaltender said. "It's always been like that. I'm just more excited. It's just fun."

That quirky little trait should come in handy tonight when the Lightning opens its lockout-shortened, 48-game season at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the Capitals.

Because all indications are Lindback will get the start, beginning Tampa Bay's plan to develop the 6-foot-6 Swede, acquired last summer from the Predators, into its long-term solution in net.

That Lindback, 24, will play is not official. Coach Guy Boucher said Friday he still had to discuss it with his staff.

But Boucher had a long talk with Lindback on the ice after Friday's practice then said, generally, "He's a young goaltender that needs to see some games and some ice."

Whether Boucher goes with Lindback or Mathieu Garon, goaltending is again a hot-button issue with the Lightning.

Yes, the additions of blue-liners Sami Salo and Matt Carle will help tighten the team's overall defensive package that last season was porous, to say the least. But that will mean nothing if the goalies can't stop the puck.

In 2011-12, Garon and Dwayne Roloson combined for a 3.34 goals-against average and .889 save percentage, both league worsts; even more disappointing because the team missed the playoffs by just eight points.

"The goaltending was not as sharp as it should have been last year," Garon said.

Indeed, all Garon needed was a relatively average .903 save percentage during a 17-game streak (before a March 6 groin tear ended his season) to go 12-3-2 and push Tampa Bay back into the playoff race.

Add that a league-most 18 goalies have played for the Lightning since Nikolai Khabibulin led it to the 2003-04 Stanley Cup title, and even Garon understands why goaltending gets so much scrutiny here.

"Of course," he said. "Unless you have a Marty Brodeur, who has been for 15 years solid with a team, it's always going to be a question mark."

Is Lindback, who has played just 38 NHL games in a two-year career spent as the backup to Nashville's Pekka Rinne, ready to provide some answers?

"It's what I've always wanted," he said. "That's why I worked to get this chance, this opportunity, to battle for the No. 1 starting job. I want to come here and prove myself and help this team win games."

"He's very athletic," said Salo, who with the Canucks saw Lindback several times. "He doesn't force himself out of the net, and he has quick feet for a big goalie."

And, oh, yeah, Salo said, "He's very calm."

Not only when it comes to suppressing his nerves, but in that there is little wasted motion when he plays.

"It's something I do to save energy, be ready for those third-period shots," Lindback said.

As for his lack of butterflies, he said, "I can't remember the last time I was really nervous before a game. It's more excitement for me. I see everything as a chance.

"I'm ready to go," he added. "I feel good."

MOVES: Forwards Mike Angelidis, Kyle Wilson and J.T. Wyman cleared waivers and were reassigned to AHL Syracuse. Defenseman Matt Taormina also cleared but because of an undisclosed injury sustained during training camp was not reassigned and was placed on injured reserve.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Lightning needs good goaltending from Anders Lindback, Mathieu Garon 01/18/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 10:45pm]
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