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Lightning Nuts & Bolts: The other homecoming in Toronto

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 15:  Mike Blunden #46 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 15, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Lightning defeated the Leafs 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) 574713301

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 15: Mike Blunden #46 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 15, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Lightning defeated the Leafs 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) 574713301

Short shift w/ RW Mike Blunden

Must-TiVo TV show: Empire

Better singer or dancer? I'd have to say singer, but I'm terrible.

Best concert you've been to: U2 or Springsteen. U2 I saw in Montreal and Springsteen in Toronto.

Top Christmas gift as a kid: Probably hockey skates, hockey stick.

Go-to website: tsn.ca (Canada's ESPN)

Prized memorabilia: My gold medal from winning world juniors (in 2006 for Canada).

The 'other' homecoming

Captain Steven Stamkos wasn't the only member of the Lightning with a homecoming Tuesday in Toronto.

Assistant coach Steve Thomas, like Stamkos, grew up in nearby Markham, Ontario. Thomas also played for the Maple Leafs over two stints (1984-87, 1998-2001).

"I feel like I grew up with the Maple Leafs," said Thomas, 52. "When I was 5 years old, I put my pajamas on and watched the first period of the game and went to bed. I watched every game. And then when I turned 16, I played for the Toronto Marlies, a Tier 2 team in Markham. So I felt like from when I was 5 to when I was playing with the Leafs … I was part of the whole family.

"As a Toronto kid playing for the Maple Leafs, it was a big deal for me."

Thomas said it was special to see the team move from the Maple Leaf Gardens to the Air Canada Centre in 1999, as well as experience the playoffs there.

"When you're successful, that whole city goes nuts for the team, and that's fun," Thomas said. "They're so passionate about the team. In Toronto, it's different because there's been so much mediocrity, they're starving for something good to happen. When it does, they're with you 100 percent."

Numbers of the day

82 Man-games lost due to injuries for the Lightning this season through 33 games.

168 Man-games lost last season.

Classy 'Coop'

RW Mike Blunden said he never doubted he would return to the NHL, even after having season-ending surgery in February to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee.

But after Blunden scored Tuesday against Toronto — his first NHL goal since January 2012 — he reflected on the support he got throughout his recovery. Blunden remembered sitting on his couch Feb. 5 ready to watch a Lightning game in Dallas when he got a phone call. It was coach Jon Cooper, who offered encouragement.

"It was a half-hour before the guys were going to play," Blunden said. "He wished me good luck on my surgery. Nice to see, class act by 'Coop' to be thinking about me even when I was in the minors (with AHL Syracuse)."

From the fans

For C Yanni Gourde: Did you keep any souvenirs from your NHL debut Tuesday? The puck from first point (assist)?

Gourde, smiling: "Just the memories."

Have a question for a Lightning player? Send it on Twitter to beat writer Joe Smith at @TBTimes_JSmith or email [email protected] We'll answer one every Sunday.

Lightning Nuts & Bolts: The other homecoming in Toronto 12/19/15 [Last modified: Saturday, December 19, 2015 9:45pm]
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