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Tampa Bay Lightning game in Toronto has Olympic subplot

PHILADELPHIA — As if returning to his hometown of Toronto wasn't enough for C Steven Stamkos, tonight's game with the Maple Leafs will be an Olympic audition.

The Globe and Mail reported Steve Yzerman, Team Canada's executive director, will be at the Air Canada Centre to scout Stamkos and Lightning teammates Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier.

St. Louis and Lecavalier are known quantities. Stamkos, with 11 goals in 12 games, is making a dark-horse bid to be on the team for the 2010 Vancouver Games.

"I'm starting to hear things in the media, which is obviously a positive for me," Stamkos said. "In Toronto, they'll find a way to get the Olympics in there, especially with the game in Canada, so I'll have to be prepared to answer some questions about that."

This will be a happy homecoming for Stamkos, who grew up in nearby Unionville, Ontario; much different from last season, when the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 draft, seven games into his NHL career, had zero goals.

"Everybody was asking me why I wasn't scoring. Maybe they'll be asking me why I am this year," Stamkos said. "You go into the media scrums with a little better attitude than last year. You kind of know what's coming. This year, it's going to be a more positive spin on things, and it definitely makes it easier on your attitude."

Stamkos said about 50 family and friends will be at the game.

"It's exciting any time you get a chance to play at home," he said. "Definitely one I had circled on the calendar before the year."

Coaching Vinny: Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said putting Lecavalier on a third line with Ws Drew Miller and Stephane Veilleux was a necessary response to the captain's struggles.

"We just don't throw darts at a dart board. We think these things through," Tocchet said.

"He's still playing first unit power play, and he'll get shifts with Marty once in a while. He might get shifts with Ryan Malone. There is still plenty of ice time for him to get with certain people. But I'm looking for a two-way game from him, and that's the way we're built. It's not two guys and the Tampa Bay Lightning; it's the Tampa Bay Lightning, and that's the way it's got to be if we are going to compete."

No Nitty: G Antero Niittymaki played well Saturday against the Devils and is a former Flyer, but Mike Smith, 2-0-1 in his previous three games, got the start.

"We're just trying to stay with the plan, here, the rotation," Tocchet said. "I just want to make sure we have fresh goalies in."

Smith was pulled in the second period after allowing five goals on 18 shots.

"A couple of rebounds right to a guy," Tocchet said. "He has to get those pucks."

Niittymaki had 12 saves on 13 shots.

Odds and ends: St. Louis' points streak ended at 11 games. … C Zenon Konopka had his league-high sixth fight. … Defensemen Kurtis Foster, Matt Smaby and Paul Ranger (personal) were scratched.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning game in Toronto has Olympic subplot 11/02/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 2, 2009 10:26pm]

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