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's early division matchups loom large

Atlanta’s Eric Boulton checks Matt Walker during Sunday’s preseason game. Lightning coach Rick Tocchet says he expects tonight’s opener between the teams to be physical.

Associated Press

Atlanta’s Eric Boulton checks Matt Walker during Sunday’s preseason game. Lightning coach Rick Tocchet says he expects tonight’s opener between the teams to be physical.

ATLANTA — With a 5-15-4 record, last season was a dismal one for the Lightning against the Southeast Division.

That is why coach Rick Tocchet is putting so much emphasis on tonight's season opener against the Thrashers at Philips Arena and the four games against division opponents among Tampa Bay's first five.

"These aren't just regular-season games," Tocchet said. "These are going to be nasty, playoff-style games. We're going into Atlanta ready to put up a good fight."

Tampa Bay was 2-3-1 last season against the Thrashers. It was 0-4-2 against the Hurricanes, whom it faces Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., and Oct. 10 at home, and 3-2-1 against the Panthers, whom it faces Oct. 12 at home.

"That's big for me to create a little bit of a realization that these games in our division are four-point games," Tocchet said. "If there's any indication the way the guys approached training camp and exhibition games, I think the guys will be ready and we'll see that type of hockey."

G Mike Smith sounded sure, as well.

"If this team is going to make the playoffs like we plan, those division games are huge," he said. "We have a good bunch of guys in this locker room who can turn a lot of heads this year. No better way to do it than to get a couple of wins against division rivals right away."

"I like the swagger of some of the guys on our team right now," Tocchet said. "We're not overconfident. But I like that guys are confident we can compete in this league. It's nice."

OATES SIGNS: The Lightning signed Adam Oates to a one-year contract as an assistant coach. Oates worked with the power play during preseason as an unpaid consultant as a favor to Tocchet, his buddy and former Capitals, Bruins and Flyers teammate.

The team's power play ranked fourth in the league at 24.4 percent (10-for-41).

"But I don't want to be just a power-play guy," said Oates, 47, a first-time coach. "Whenever you see something, I just want to talk and provide information and get everybody's strengths and weaknesses and find chemistry and help the organization in all aspects of the game."

That already is happening, GM Brian Lawton said.

"He's bringing a wealth of knowledge on the power play," he said. "But in my opinion, he's doing more than that in a variety of areas. I think he's a great addition to our staff."

LOISELLE OUT: Imran Khan is a co-assistant GM after the contract of Claude Loiselle, in that position since 2005, was not renewed.

Khan, 26, who for a year was in charge of business development and strategic planning for the Lightning, is a former intern of Lawton's at the Octagon sports management agency, where Lawton ran the hockey division.

Khan will handle collective bargaining administrative issues and contract research, Lawton said.

ASHTON SIGNS: Carter Ashton, 18, drafted 29th overall in June, signed a three-year entry-level deal. He will play this season in Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League and begin his pro career in 2010-11.

ODDS AND ENDS: LW Mitch Fritz cleared waivers and was assigned to AHL Norfolk. … G Jaroslav Janus, drafted in the sixth round (162nd overall) in June, signed a tryout contract with AHL Norfolk.

Tampa Bay Lightning's early division matchups loom large 10/02/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 3, 2009 6:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. It's not a game, but the names are all the same in this football family


    TAMPA — A coach yells across the field into a scrum of blue-and-white clad football bodies at Jefferson High: "Kim Mitchell! Kim Mitchell, come here!"

    These twins are not only identical, but they have almost identical names. Kim Mitchell III, left, and Kim Mitchell IV are  talented football players at Jefferson High with Division I-A college offers. Kim  III wears No. 22 and plays cornerback while Kim IV wears No. 11 and plays safety. (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)
  2. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) pumps his fist to the crowd after Tampa Bay's 29-7 victory over Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The Bucs play at Minnesota at 1 p.m. Sunday. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  3. Cannon Fodder podcast: Sorting through the Bucs' injuries


    Greg Auman sorts through the Bucs players sidelined with injury and illness in the latest edition of our Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Kwon Alexander left the Bucs' game against the Bears with a hamstring injury. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. College football week 4: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions


    The Times' college football coverage team makes its picks for week 4 of the college football season:

    USF coach Charlie Strong and the Bulls face Temple in a 7:30 p.m. game Thursday at Raymond James Stadium. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  5. Young girl injured by 105 mph foul at Yankee Stadium renews call for more netting


    NEW YORK — A young girl at Yankee Stadium was injured by a 105 mph foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier during Wednesday's game against Minnesota, leading some players to call for protective netting to be extended.

    Baseball fans reacts as a young girl is tended to before she is carried out of the seating area after being hit by a line drive in the fifth inning of a baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at Yankee Stadium in New York. [Associated Press]