Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon says he's healthy, ready to play

When the Lightning acquired Anders Lindback during the summer from the Predators, the buzz was the team had found its No. 1 goaltender for now and the future. But coach Guy Boucher is saying Lindback and Mathieu Garon for now are Nos. 1 and 1a.

It is a smart move on a couple of levels, the most obvious being it undercuts some of the pressure and hype heaped on Lindback, and it allows him time to acclimate while proving he deserves the top spot.

It also signals to Garon he will not immediately be relegated to a backup role.

"They're both going to get a lot of ice time," Boucher. "I'm not expecting Lindback to come in here and play 65 games. He played 15 games the past two years, so it's not fair to him. It's not fair for the expectations."

Boucher's facts are slightly off — Lindback played 16 games last season and 22 in 2010-11 as Pekka Rinne's backup — but the coach's instinct to manage the expectations for Lindback, 24, is a no-brainer.

Make no mistake, the Lightning expects Lindback to be its long-term solution in net. But despite good reviews — Predators defenseman Shea Weber told Tampa Bay's Teddy Purcell the athletic 6-foot-7 Lindback has the stuff to be a No. 1 — he is raw and untested.

There is no upside, in other words, to immediately anointing Lindback the answer to the Lightning's prayers, especially when Tampa Bay has a solid veteran in Garon, 34, who last season proved his mettle by going 23-16-4, including 12-3-2 from Jan. 17-March 6, when his season ended because of a groin injury.

"We know he's going to be good, but how good we don't know," Boucher said of Lindback. "That's why Garon is perfect for him. He'll be able to help him with how to manage things. And we know we can put Garon in net and get good results."

With the NHL threatening to lock out players Saturday if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached, players are in limbo as they prepare for training camps that might not open on time. Given that and the acquisition of Lindback, Boucher wanted Garon to know he will not be overlooked, so he made a phone call.

His message: "Don't come in with a backup attitude."

"With my experience, whatever a coach tells you, it's never set in stone, but it's good for him to tell me to prepare," said Garon, who added that his groin is healed. "When there is a trade like that, you don't know what to expect. You don't know what's going on. It was good to get that phone call."

Speaking of phone calls, Garon called Lindback to let him know they will be partners and not competitors.

"I talked to him and welcomed him and told him, 'Whatever you need through the year, I'll be there to help you,' " Garon said.

Even so, he said, "I prepare like I'm going to play a lot of games. The rest depends on how things go. But I don't control that. All I control is being in good shape and being ready to play."

HIRED: Robert Canton was hired as the team's executive vice president of finance and strategic planning. Canton, 48, who spent 22 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Tampa, replaces chief financial offer Martha Fuller, who the team said resigned for family reasons.

PROSPECT news: Slater Koekkoek, drafted 10th overall in June, will miss about two weeks because of a deep bone bruise on his left shoulder. The defenseman for Peterborough of the junior Ontario league was hurt in a preseason game Thursday when he fell awkwardly into the boards after a heavy hit from Oshawa's Boone Jenner. Koekkoek missed most of last season after surgery to repair a torn labrum in the same shoulder. He said his new injury "is not a big deal." … Goaltending prospect Jaroslav Janus signed a two-year contract with HC Slovan of Bratislava, Slovakia, his agent said. Janus, who had a 0.99 goals-against average and .963 save percentage in two games playing with a tryout deal, has an out clause in the second season. "If he wants to return, we want him back," Lightning assistant GM Julien BriseBois said.

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