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Rookie Brett Connolly has no problem playing on Tampa Bay Lightning's third line

BRANDON — Playing in the preseason on a line with C Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis was a blast, RW Brett Connolly said. But he has no problem getting bumped to the third line for Friday's opener at Carolina.

"Obviously, I'm going to play wherever they want me to play, so I'm not too worried about that," Connolly said Wednesday. "I just want to help the team as well as I can."

Connolly, 19, in his first NHL regular-season game, likely will start on the third line with C Dominic Moore and Ryan Shannon. Coach Guy Boucher said that is to "take the pressure off," considering Connolly's nine-game tryout.

That is how many games the No. 6 overall pick of the 2010 draft can play before he either must go back to juniors or the clock starts on his three-year, $2.7 million contract.

"I've lived it in the past," Boucher said. "Young guys go from being at the top, and some weeks later, they go down on the roster and they lose their confidence. It would be unrealistic, unfair to expect a young kid to do it day in and day out.

"Can (Connolly) do it eventually? I think he will. But now we have to give him all the chance possible to do well, and that's not putting him against the top lines and top defensemen from other teams."

CALLING BLAIR JONES: Blair Jones snagged the final forward position, a fourth-line gig with C Nate Thompson and RW Adam Hall.

Jones, 25, will be part of a rotation with forwards Tom Pyatt and Mattias Ritola, both of whom will be scratched for at least the first game.

How did Jones get so lucky?

"He was with us last year," Boucher said. "He played in the playoffs, came in outstanding shape and with an incredible attitude, and has been steady in every practice and every game he played, so he deserves it."

That said, Jones shouldn't get comfortable.

"We go with the guys who were here to start," Boucher said, "but after that, it is all open."

LINING UP: The other lines are St. Louis-Stamkos-Steve Dow­nie and Ryan Malone-Vinny Lecavalier-Teddy Purcell. The defensive pairings are Victor Hedman-Eric Brewer, Brett Clark-Matt Gilroy and Marc-Andre BergeronPavel Kubina.

THE BUSINESS: Boucher said Dana Tyrell's demotion to AHL Norfolk was "sending a player down who doesn't deserve to be sent down." Tyrell, 22, was the final cut because he was the only bubble player who did not need to clear waivers.

"It's the business," Boucher said. "But we're not going to lose sight of the fact that he was the most in-shape player in camp. But we built our depth at forward, and there's a lot of guys who can play in the NHL who have different contracts, and we have to look at that."

NO DAMAGE: Moore said his sore back is just "one of those things," and expects to play Friday. "You want to make sure your alignment and everything is working the way it should," said Moore, who had an MRI exam that showed no damage. "Now is the time to take care of it before it gets more out of whack."

WATCH PARTY: The team will host a watch party at 7 p.m. Friday at the Brick House Tavern, 1102 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.

ODDS AND ENDS: With D Mattias Ohlund (knee) out of the lineup, expect Stamkos or Brewer to wear an A as an alternate captain. … Thompson on Wednesday turned 27.

Rookie Brett Connolly has no problem playing on Tampa Bay Lightning's third line 10/05/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:55pm]
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