Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer

Damian Cristodero

Damian Cristodero has covered the Lightning for the Tampa Bay Times since 2000. Before that he was the Times' national auto racing reporter, and he also spent a season and a half helping to cover the Rays. His passion, though, is the NHL, and he has covered several Stanley Cup finals and All-Star Games, as well as the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Cristodero grew up on Long Island and worked for Newsday for six years before coming to Florida in 1987. He was the Gannett News Service's Miami-based sportswriter from 1990 to 1994. He joined the Times in 1997.

Phone: (727) 893-8622

Email: cristodero@tampabay.com

Twitter: @LightningTimes

Blog: Lightning Strikes

  1. Ben Bishop's rehab progresses for Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ben Bishop on Friday took another step in his rehabilitation of an injured left elbow as he took shots for the first time since he was hurt April 8 against the Maple Leafs.

    Granted, the Lightning's No. 1 goaltender skated on his own and the shots came from goaltenders coach Frantz Jean. But, Jean said, "(Friday) was a very, very good day."

    There still is no timetable for Bishop's return other than a hope he will be ready if the first-round playoff series with the Canadiens is a long one....

    NOT HAPPY: From left, the Lightning’s Alex Killorn, Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson and J.T. Brown let Montreal’s 4-0 lead settle in.
  2. Lightning in 2-0 hole after Game 2 loss to Canadiens

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning coach Jon Cooper would not characterize Friday night's game with the Canadiens as a must-win.

    "If this was Game 4 and we were down three, I would call that a must-win," Cooper said. "But this one we really need."

    But Tampa Bay failed badly in a 4-1 loss at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to fall behind two games to none in the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series....

    Canadiens left wing Rene Bourque, top, sneaks the puck around Lightning goalie Anders Lindback and defenseman Sami Salo for a goal during the second period in Montreal’s 4-1 Game 2 win.
  3. Cooper on Game 2 vs. the Canadiens: 'This is one we need'


    Toward the end of Friday's pregame meeting with reporters, someone asked Lightning coach Jon Cooper if tonight's Game 2 against the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals was a must win.

    "I don't know if it's must win," Cooper said. "If this was Game 4 and we were down three, I would call that a must win. But this is one we need."

    Tampa Bay is down one game to none in the best-of-seven series. It already has lost home ice. To go down 2-0 to Montreal headed to the Bell Centre would be a tough hole out of which to climb....

    If Ondrej Palat (upper body injury), center, cannot go, expect Alex Killorn to take Palat's place on a line with Steven Stamkos, left, and Tyler Johnson, right.
  4. Jon Cooper: Game 1 worse on review

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Cedric Paquette was of two minds after Wednesday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

    The Lightning rookie center wanted to forget his defensive blunder that led to the winning goal.

    "I tried to think about anything else," he said Thursday.

    At the same time, "it's a play you have to remember because you don't want to make it again."...

    With the Lightning’s Cedric Paquette, third from right, out of position, the Canadiens’ Dale Weise, far right, scores the Game 1 winner in overtime.
  5. Inexperienced Lightning hopes to grow up in a hurry

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — As it turns out, Lightning right wing J.T. Brown said, a Stanley Cup playoff game isn't that much different from the regular season.

    "We're still lacing up our skates the same way," the rookie said.

    A cute answer. But it came in response to what might be one of the most critical questions about the Eastern Conference first-round series with the Canadiens:

    Does it matter that Tampa Bay has so little playoff experience on its roster?...

    From left, Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson and Radko Gudas are among the 11 Lightning players who entered Game 1 against the Canadiens with one or zero NHL playoff games on their resume. Those three had zero.
  6. Lightning's Jon Cooper ups intrigue on line combos

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Jon Cooper always has been a bit cagey before games about how he will construct his lines and what players will be scratched.

    But the Lightning coach took it to new heights during Wednesday's morning skate before Game 1 with the Canadiens by showing different combinations during line rushes and different defensive pairings as well.

    "I don't know," he said when asked how many line combinations he displayed, a camouflage tactic against whatever Montreal coaches were watching and to prevent the media from reporting anything definitive....

    THE HEAD GUY: From left, Chris Giomblanco of Tampa, and Glen Hobbs Jr. and his father, Glen Hobbs, of Hudson cheer, with help from a Steven Stamkos big head, after the Lightning center ties the score 4-4 at 13:27 of the third period.-
  7. Lightning falls in OT to Canadiens in playoff opener

    Lightning Strikes


    It didn't much matter who you spoke to in the Lightning locker room after Wednesday night's 5-4 overtime loss to the Canadiens, the mantra seemed to eventually come up. It was only one game. Defenseman Radko Gudas said it, as did defenseman Victor Hedman and, finally, coach Jon Cooper. "The bad news is we lost the game," Cooper said of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals played in front of a sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "The good news is one game doesn't win the series. We get to come back and regroup and find a way. That's the great part about a seven-game series." Tampa Bay has a lot on which to work, including a couple of things it has tried to overcome all season: limiting its own chances by trying too hard to make the perfect play instead of simply getting pucks to the net, and shooting itself in the foot, as Cooper called it, with turnovers and defensive lapses. Montreal had a 44-25 shot advantage in the game, 35-16 through regulation and 14-4 in the first period, including 12-1 in the period's final 14:55....

  8. Teddy Purcell hopes playoffs revive game

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — In 2011, the last time the Lightning was in the playoffs, RW Teddy Purcell was a force with six goals and 17 points in 18 games.

    So after "a grind" of a 2013-14 season that Purcell — with 12 goals and 42 points and minus-3 in 80 games — said "didn't go my way," perhaps the intensity of the postseason is what he needs to shake loose.

    "It's so much easier to get up for games in the playoffs," Purcell said Tuesday. "It's a fun atmosphere."...

    Lightning wing Teddy Purcell had 12 goals and 42 points in 80 regular-season games.
  9. Off-ice life helps Anders Lindback weather struggles

    Lightning Strikes

    On days when things weren't going so well at the rink, Anders Lindback made sure he carved out some quiet time at home to read. The Lightning goaltender said he has a "nice collection" of books and just finished Lone Survivor, about a Navy SEAL who was the only member of his squad to survive a mission in Afghanistan. When not reading, Lindback might strum a little guitar or go fishing. The idea was to make sure his job — and lack of success for much of the season — did not overwhelm him and stayed at the rink. "That's only going to take you down more," Lindback said of constantly worrying. "It's hard to be all emotional during a long stretch of the season. Better — even though it's hard sometimes — to stay in the middle." That is why Lindback speaks mildly about his recent success and how it could not have come at a better time. Because if No. 1 Ben Bishop, out three games with a left elbow injury, is not ready, Lindback will backstop Tampa Bay's first-round playoff series against the Canadiens that begins tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "When you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it," he said. "But it's one thing to play a couple of good games. It's another to have a season like Ben's. That's really the way I want to get to one day."...

    Lightning goalie Anders Lindback, talking with the media after practice Tuesday, says of his steadier play of late, “It’s time to take it to another level.”
  10. 'Crazy' year has rewards for Steven Stamkos

    Lightning Strikes

    For Steven Stamkos, the bottom line always was, as he said, "getting back to playing with the guys." Yes, playing for Canada at February's Olympics would have been terrific. But ultimately, the Lightning captain said, his main concern, after breaking his right tibia in a Nov. 11 game at Boston, was getting back on the ice to help the team make the playoffs. That is why Tampa Bay's first postseason appearance since 2011, and only its second since 2007, is so rewarding. "I always talk about when we were in (the playoffs) a couple of years ago, how that was the most fun a lot of us had playing hockey in our lives," Stamkos said. Stamkos, 24, despite missing 45 games, tied for the team lead with 25 goals, including 11 in 20 games after resuming his season March 6 with a titanium rod in his leg. He took a few minutes recently at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to reflect on a tumultuous season that included the trade of friend and mentor Marty St. Louis to the Rangers:...

    Despite missing 45 games, Steven Stamkos tied for the team lead with 25 goals, including 11 in 20 games after resuming his season on March 6 with a titanium rod in his leg.
  11. Anders Lindback is NHL's first star of the week


    Anders Lindback is the NHL's first star of the week ending Sunday. The Lightning goaltender was 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average, .975 save percentage and a shutout.

    Here is the announcement from the league:

    Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback, Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson and Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending April 13.


        Lindback posted a 3-0-0 record with a 0.67 goals-against
    average, .975 save percentage and one shutout to help the Lightning
    (46-27-9, 101 points) earn four consecutive victories and clinch home-ice
    advantage in their first-round playoff series against the Montreal
    Canadiens. He stopped all 25 shots he faced in relief of Ben Bishop in a
    3-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs April 8. Lindback then made 34 saves
    in a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers April 10. He capped the week
    by recording 18 saves, and denying all three attempts he faced in the
    shootout, to pick up his third career shutout and first since Dec. 13,
    2010, in a 1-0 triumph over the Washington Capitals April 13. The
    25-year-old native of Gävle, Sweden, appeared in 23 games this season,
    compiling an 8-12-2 record with a 2.90 goals-against average and .891 save


        Gibson went 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average, .954 save
    percentage and one shutout to help the Ducks (54-20-8, 116 points) post
    four consecutive victories and clinch the top seed in the Western
    Conference for the first time in franchise history. He made 18 saves in a
    3-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks April 7, becoming the first goaltender
    to record a shutout in his NHL debut since April 1, 2009 (Al Montoya).
    Gibson then stopped 36 shots in a 5-2 triumph over the San Jose Sharks
    April 9, helping the Ducks clinch their second consecutive Pacific Division
    title and the third in franchise history. He closed the week with 29 saves,
    including 12 in the third period, in a 3-2 overtime victory over the
    Colorado Avalanche April 13. The 20-year-old native of Pittsburgh was
    selected by the Ducks in second round (39th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft
    and helped the team set franchise records for wins (54) and points (116)
    this season.


        Johansen tied for third in the NHL with six points (2-4—6), finding
    the scoresheet in four consecutive games to help the Blue Jackets (43-32-7,
    93 points) clinch their second playoff berth in franchise history
    (2008-09). He registered 1-1—2, including the winning goal at 3:33 of
    overtime, in a 4-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes April 8. Johansen then
    posted an assist in each of the next two games: a 3-1 triumph over the
    Dallas Stars April 9 and a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning April 11. He
    closed the season with 1-1—2, including his fifth game-winning goal and
    16th multi-point performance, in a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers
    April 12. The 21-year-old native of Vancouver played in all 82 games this
    season, leading the Blue Jackets and posting career highs in goals (33),
    assists (30) and points (63)....

    Anders Lindback was 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average, .975 save percentage and a shutout this past week.
  12. Jon Cooper: Ryan Malone feels embarrassed

    Lightning Strikes

    WASHINGTON — Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he spoke to Ryan Malone and described the left wing as "probably a little embarrassed about what has gone on." But Cooper said the episode in which Malone early Saturday was arrested in Tampa and charged with DUI and cocaine possession will not distract the team as it enters the playoffs.

    "Hockeywise we've had way more distractions worse than this one," Cooper said Sunday. "This is more of a life issue, more a friend of ours who we know is physically doing okay and hopefully the worst is over. As for hockey, this won't be a distraction at all for us."...

  13. Lightning-Canadiens playoff schedule (updated with TV)


    Here is the schedule for the Lightning and Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs:

    April 16: at Tampa, 7 p.m., Sun Sports, CNBC

    April 18: at Tampa, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Florida, CNBC

    April 20: at Montreal, 7 p.m., Sun Sports, NBC Sports Network

    April 22: at Montreal, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Florida, NHL Network

    *April 24: at Tampa, 7 p.m., Sun Sports

    *April 27: at Montreal, Sun Sports...

    Lightning forward Alex Killorn tries to get a puck past Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.
  14. Lightning wins finale over Capitals, gets home ice for first round

    Lightning Strikes

    WASHINGTON — As the back-door play developed for the Capitals during a second-period power play and sharpshooter Nicklas Backstrom redirected the puck at what appeared to be an open net, all Lightning coach Jon Cooper could do was hope.

    "You're gasping, 'Please get across there,' " Cooper said.

    And goaltender Anders Lindback did just that, stretching his right leg to make an improbable save....

    Anders Lindback, left, prepares for a hug from captain Steven Stamkos after not allowing a goal in the shootout against the Capitals. Lindback has three wins and stopped 77 of 79 shots since taking over the starter’s duties last week.
  15. Jon Cooper's novel approach to home-ice advantage


    The Lightning's season finale Sunday at Washington will determine whether Tampa Bay gets home-ice advantage in its first-round playoff series with the Canadiens.

    For Lightning coach Jon Cooper, home ice is most important when it comes to hosting a Game 7.

    But what if the team with the advantage was forced to play on the road in Game 7? That is what Cooper suggested in a novel approach to how a seven-game playoff series should be structured....