Keeping it real I
Tyler Sontag, 24, has been a season-ticket holder for three years, and before that, he said, he went to 20 or 30 games a season. He said he was at Game 5 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final. So when the Dunedin resident asked the Lightning if he could watch practice and meet LW Ryan Malone, it was not a problem. Sontag has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that causes joints to contract and affects growth. Sontag gets around in a wheelchair. Malone said meeting him put things in perspective. "Even bad days are good days for us," he said. Why is Malone Sontag's favorite player? Besides having to pick a new one after D Dan Boyle was traded, Sontag — and his nurse, Joan Watkins — said they like Malone's heart. "And he's very happy," Sontag said. "He smiles on the ice. Hopefully, he's still around in two or three years."
Keeping it real II
Columbus' Ken Hitchcock might be the NHL's most analytical coach, so he seemed the perfect person to break down what has happened to the Lightning.
"The two things you can't have happen in the NHL both happened to Tampa Bay," Hitchcock said. "They lost their goalie, and they lost key defensemen. Otherwise, they'd be competitive right to the end.
"You can lose forwards. You can drop three or four forwards and still win. You can win losing forwards. You can't win losing defensemen or your goalie. It's too hard. If you can't play in your own zone, you're always vulnerable."
5 questions | C Steven Stamkos
What's on the walls of your condo? I've got my first NHL pucks: first goal, first assist, first hat trick.
Describe your decorating style Traditional. Nothing too fancy. Plain and simple.
Any teammates give advice? Mark Recchi came over, and Mike Smith gave me some furniture he wasn't using.
Do you leave stuff on the floors? No. I'm pretty clean and organized.
So, your mom would be proud? Yes, she would be.