Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming is undergoing at least eight hours of surgery today at an Irvine, Calif., hospital to address a malignant brain tumor that was diagnosed before the playoffs. Players said the news is not a distraction, but it does add another layer to a story that includes the Lightning dedicating the playoffs to someone they call a member of their family.
As defenseman Randy Jones said, "This is a big family and he's a big part of it. Your thoughts and prayers are with him and you're thinking about him."
But Jones said Fleming would not want to be a distraction for tonight's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against Capitals.
"He'd want us to go and focus 100 percent on this game and work hard, and that's what we have to do."
Tampa Bay players and coaches already had dedicated the first round of the playoffs to Fleming, and have the puck used to finish off Game 7 against the Penguins. But Jones said the dedication "doesn't stop just because we're done with round one. We're playing this entire playoffs for Flemmer. He's in a pretty big battle right now and we're doing whatever we can to support him. He's in our thoughts and prayers and we're playing for him.
No doubt, Fleming would be proud of his penalty kill. The squad he coached all season has killed 45 of 46 penalties in the playoffs and 30 straight. Marty Raymond has taken over while Fleming is away from the team.
Other stuff from the morning: Lightning coach Guy Boucher made it sound as if neither injured left wing Simon Gagne nor defenseman Pavel Kubina will play in Games 3 or 4. "They're day-to-day except for today and tomorrow," Boucher said. ... Kubina spoke publicly for the first time since his head was knocked into the glass in Game 1 by an elbow from Washington's Jason Chimera. He said he is feeling better every day and that his recovery is a "process." He declined to comment on what he thought of Chimera's hit or what symptoms he is feeling. There is no official word on the injury, though assuming he experiencing at least concussion-like symptoms is not a stretch given how the injury occurred. ... Two stick blades to the mouth of Lightning wing Marty St. Louis during Game 2 (neither of which were called for penalties in one of the most poorly officiated games of the postseason) caused St. Louis to have the three teeth loosened by a stick to the mouth in the Penguins series to be re-cemented into place. No root canals this time, but, again, the procedure, performed Monday by team dentist Sam Carranante, will allow St. Louis to eat without problems during the playoffs. ... St. Louis was pretty blunt that the Lightning has not played particularly well during the two games it won in Washington. "I know we're up 2-0 in the series but I don't think it's been played like that. We got some lucky bounces and have been very opportunistic with some of our chances. But we've been outshot in both games. We know we have to shoot the puck more. We need more offensive zone time. Roli (goaltender Dwayne Roloson) has been stellar, and that's why we're up 2-0." ... There was some buzz among Washington reporters that coach Bruce Boudreau might switch goaltenders. Apparently Boudreau generally does not speak to his goalies, Washington reporters said, so when he called Semyon Varlamov into his office on Monday in Washington, the whispers began. But Boudreau today said he has no plans on changing, and Michal Neuvirth, who has not played badly in the series, took shots during the morning skate. ... In the we-have-nothing-else-to-talk-about department, Lightning star Steven Stamkos was named one of the "25 fittest guys in the world" by Men's Fitness magazine. Stamkos said he didn't even know about this until two days ago. No photo shoot, no interview, just his name and a brief write-up that he worked out six days a week during the summer with fitness guru and former NHL player Gary Roberts. ... Someone today actually asked Capitals player Jason Arnott if Washington was having trouble matching Tampa Bay's intensity. Seeing the Caps dominated play in Games 1 and 2 and if not for Roloson would be ahead 2-0 in the series, Arnott answered in the only way he could: "What?"