Make us your home page

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Lightning: Early Toronto homecoming for rookie Stamkos

TORONTO — Lightning center Steven Stamkos said today will be "just another day at the rink."

Even so, the 18-year-old may never have another like it.

Consider Stamkos, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Unionville idolizing the Maple Leafs, faces that team for the first time at the Air Canada Centre.

Stamkos' father, Chris, said at least 50 family and friends will be there, and Stamkos said the whole thing is "pretty special."

But with the celebration will be questions.

Last summer's No. 1 draft choice has zero points in seven games. And though he averaged 13:08 of ice time his past three games, he is averaging 11:09 for the season, 44th among NHL rookies entering Monday.

It's like chum in the water for Toronto's media.

"Steven is a pro now. The press is part of the game," coach Barry Melrose said. "He has to learn how to handle the press. We'll protect him as much as we can. But he's going to have to be there."

"The Canadian media find every little thing to write about. It's hockey, hockey, hockey there," Stamkos said. "Obviously, it's going to be brought up with regards to ice time and stuff like that. The main thing is the team first. It's a long process. Hopefully, we can start going soon."

Stamkos has had three games in which he played fewer than 10 minutes, including 6:05 on Oct. 11 against the Hurricanes.

He does not kill penalties and loses ice time when the Lightning begins its all-too-common parade to the penalty box. Until recently, he also was watching the power play instead of playing on it.

Getting on the second unit has provided scoring chances, and Stamkos has 11 shots on goal in his past three games.

"Everyone is so worked up about Steven, but he's getting his chances," Melrose said. "If he wasn't getting chances, then you have to start worrying. He's carrying the puck and moving it and looking quick."

"I just have to keep getting pucks to the net," Stamkos said. "One of them is going to go in, and hopefully, the flood gates open after that. Hopefully, the same thing happens to the team."

It is more likely to happen for Stamkos now that he says he better understands what it takes to play in the NHL. Not that he expected it to be easy. But Stamkos, who made the jump from juniors, said it still has required a "mental adjustment."

"In junior, at Sarnia, you're the guy, and you're playing 25 minutes every night, and if you make a mistake, you're going to be on the ice anyway," he said. "Here, you've got to earn your ice and prove to the coaching staff that you can produce at this level. I need to prove myself, and hopefully I can be the guy they can depend on to get a goal or something like that."

"He'll take it as a challenge," Sarnia coach Dave MacQueen said. "He's such a quality kid, this is going to make him stronger and better."

He will be fortified after a home-cooked meal of steak and shrimp, and advice from Melrose about dealing with the media.

"Just have fun with it," Melrose said. "Don't get worked up about it. Don't take it personal. He's a great kid. I'm sure he'll do well."

It is, after all, just another day at the rink.


Lightning at Maple Leafs

When/where: 7:30; Air Canada Centre, Toronto

Radio: 620-AM

Injuries: Tampa Bay — LW Radim Vrbata (groin) is out; C Ryan Craig (groin) is day to day. Toronto — None.

Key stats: The Lightning has lost six straight games in Toronto, one in overtime, and is 1-9-2 there since 2001-02. … Tampa Bay's power play entered Monday the league's second-worst, at 9.4 percent (3-for-32). … Toronto D Luke Schenn is averaging 21:24 of ice time, second among rookies.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Early Toronto homecoming for rookie Stamkos 10/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 6:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    OF/DH Corey Dickerson missed out on a good birthday gift when AL player of the week honors went instead to Detroit's J.D. Martinez. Dickerson hit .385 with five homers, nine RBIs and nine runs; Martinez went .389-4-9-7 and got the nod.

  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb learning to work with what he has



    If this were 2012 or 2013, even 2014, RHP Alex Cobb would have problems. He would find himself working with only two of his three pitches, with the missing pitch being his trusty changeup.

    Alex Cobb, working mainly with his fastball and curveball, is 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA over his past five starts. The Rays right-hander tries to continue his strong stretch tonight against the Angels.
  4. Rays vs. Angels, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Angels

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Fennelly: This season's Chris Archer is a pleasure to watch

    The Heater


    At this time last season, through 10 starts, Rays pitcher Chris Archer was 3-5 on his way to 9-19.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, May 21, 2017.