Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning's Brett Clark has knack for getting in the way of the puck

NEWARK, N.J. — Lightning defenseman Brett Clark made a bold prediction about tonight's game with the Devils:

He will, without a doubt, take a puck squarely off his right ankle.

The joint is "like a magnet," said Clark, who for a while has been dealing with a painfully swollen bursa that is larger than a golf ball and causes him to limp slightly when not on the ice.

It's not that great when he plays, either. The compression of the skate boot helps stabilize things, but Clark said, "The movement in the boot, cutting and pivoting, it gets very sore."

Really, it is his own fault.

Second in the league entering Wednesday with 186 blocked shots, Clark constantly puts himself in harm's way.

"You know it's going to hurt," he said. "But you still have to stick your neck out for the team. That's what the whole job is."

Clark, 35, always has been a shot blocker. In 2008-09 with the Avalanche, his 238 blocks were second in the league and set the team record. Last season he led Tampa Bay with 157. This season he is on track for 201.

With the way the league has cracked down on obstruction, blocks are more important than ever, he said: "Because you can't hold, you can't tie up, you can't pin along the boards as much, guys are going to get to the front of the net, so you have to keep the puck away as much as you can."

It is easy to miss Clark's effectiveness. He does not draw attention by sprawling because he generally is so well positioned in the shooting lanes that he can stay upright.

As goaltender Dwayne Roloson said, "When he's there and he's in front of you, that shot's not getting through."

"Those guys are really nuts," coach Guy Boucher said of the best shot blockers. "If you think about the reality of such a hard object being thrown at you at 100 mph with basically no protection, it takes major bravery. We say bravery is close to insanity, so to these guys, I raise my hat."

That brings us back to Clark's battered and bulbous ankle.

In a March 22 victory over the Oilers, it was hit so hard by an Ales Hemsky shot, Clark buckled in pain. With the puck stuck in Tampa Bay's zone, it was perhaps another minute before he got to the bench.

"That's when your (defense) partner helps you out and takes a little bit of that role from you, knowing you can't move," Clark said. "You just hold in front of the net. You just try to get the puck out so you can get off the ice."

But never for long. In two seasons with Tampa Bay, Clark has not missed a game and sees no reason that will change tonight at the Prudential Center.

That said, Clark knows what will happen. "With the initial impact, sometimes it goes numb for a few minutes," he said of the ankle. "You just have to keep pushing through it."

HEALING: Captain Vinny Lecavalier, out 18 games with a fractured right hand, is expected to play against the Devils. Center Nate Thompson, out six games with an upper-body injury, might return as well. In anticipation, right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie was reassigned to AHL Norfolk.

streaking on: Dustin Tokarski made 32 saves for his 10th straight win and fifth shutout of the season, and Richard Panik and Ondrej Palat scored as Norfolk extended its AHL-record winning streak to 21 games, 2-0 over St. John's.

. Tonight

Lightning at Devils

When/where: 7; Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: Lightning C Steven Stamkos has a league-best 55 goals and five in his past three games. … The Devils have the league's No. 1 penalty kill at 89.6 percent. … New Jersey leads the league with 14 short-handed goals and 13 short-handed goals against. … Devils C Adam Henrique entered Wednesday with a rookie-best 32 assists. … New Jersey LW Zach Parise has two goals, five points in three games this season against Tampa Bay. Stamkos has the same against the Devils.

Comments
NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

The NHL got it right.Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning's top scorer and best player so far in these playoffs, will play Saturday's Game 5 against New Jersey. He's not going to be suspended for his vicious hit on a Devils player in Tampa Bay's Game 4 vic...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

The Lightning's Victor Hedman is a finalist for the second consecutive year for the Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the league. The other two finalists are Drew Doughty of the Kings and P.K. Subban of the Predators, it was announced Thu...
Published: 04/19/18
Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

TAMPA — The second period was not even four minutes old Wednesday night when Devils right wing Patrick Maroon skated all alone toward Andrei Vasilevskiy. It was a moment that could turn a game and even a series.A goal and the score would be tie...
Published: 04/19/18
Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Former UCF and Lakewood High standout Shaquem Griffin understandably has been focused on the NFL draft next week in Arlington, Tex., where he is projected as a potential second-day pick.But the Lightning's playoff run  hasn't escaped his attenti...
Published: 04/19/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Published: 04/19/18
Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

NEWARK, N.J. — The Devils pulled out all the stops for Wednesday's Game 4 of their Stanley Cup quarter final series with the Lightning by inviting David Puddy at the Prudential Center.For those who do not know who he is, Puddy was Elaine's...
Published: 04/19/18
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Published: 04/18/18
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Devils Game 4

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Devils Game 4

I guess the lesson here is never believe a hockey player when he says what happens in a scrum at the end of a playoff game doesn't carry over into the next game. It sure looks like the Lightning and Devils won't be vacationing together this summer.Th...
Published: 04/18/18
Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Times columnist Tom Jones gives his thoughts while watching the broadcast of Game 4 of the series between the Lightning and Devils:Hard work beats everythingWe watch the Lightning all season long and marvel at its skill. Nikita Kucherov, Steven ...
Published: 04/18/18
Restraint? Ha. Lightning-Devils mix it up in early going of Game 4

Restraint? Ha. Lightning-Devils mix it up in early going of Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. — Both sides were in agreement Tuesday that the shenanigans during the final minute of Monday's Game 3 would not carry over to Game 4."I think the emotion of a game in a series carries over, (but) what happened at end I don't think...
Published: 04/18/18