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Tampa Bay Lightning players who knew tough guy Derek Boogaard recall "a big teddy bear"

Tampa Bay Lightning goal tender Mike Smith said he got "goose bumps" when he heard Rangers tough guy Derek Boogaard had been found dead Friday night in his apartment. He was 28. But more than that, said Smith, who played with Boogaard during the 2005-06 season with AHL Houston, he was "a big teddy bear."

Quite a statement considering Boogaard was one of the NHL's most feared fighters and had 589 penalty minutes in 277 career games.

"For a big guy he was a big teddy bear. A really likable guy, soft spoken," Smith said. "The way he played on the ice did not reflect in any way how he was off the ice. He played hard. He did his job. When you see something happen like this it makes you think, you know, hockey is fun but life is way more important. It's a tragic loss, obviously. He's a guy who is going to be missed for sure."

Smith said he got "goose bumps" when he heard the news.

Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson, a teammate of Boogaard's in 2005-06 with the Wild also took the news hard.

" Yeah, it's pretty tough to handle right now," Roloson said. "He was a great person away from the rink and at the rink. He gave us security and did the little things to help his teammates succeed in the game of hockey. It was very unfortunate. My heart goes out to his family right now."

Asked to describe Boogaard in the locker room, Roloson said, "He was an awesome guy in the room. I remember when he first broke in, every day he came to work hard. He wanted to get better. He wanted to make it to the NHL and wanted to prove to every person out there that said he couldn't make it they were wrong. He worked hard every day on and off the ice. One of those guys who was first on, last off and with the attitude to get better, and he succeeded."

The cause of Boogaard's death apparently has yet to be determined.

Other stuff from the morning skate: The Lightning had an optional skate at TD Garden. Ten skaters and two goalies participated. ... Coach Guy Boucher said he will stick with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Simon Gagne is in, Blair Jones is out. Defense remains the same. ... Captain Vinny Lecavalier on Bruins goalie Tim Thomas: "It's pretty tough to watch tape and try to figure him out. He's all about battling and he fights and never gives up. That's what makes him the goaltender he is. he competes probably harder than any goaltender I've seen. That makes him the goalie he is." ... Gagne did not come right out and say he had a concussion from the Game 1 hit against the Capitals, but he sure made it sound like the protocol he followed was done with the idea he might have one. "The first two days I did the bike 10, 15 minutes to see if anything showed up. I just did a little bit more every day." More than anything, the 10 days Tampa Bay had between series was the key. "In the regular season I don't know if you can prepare yourself like that for that kind of injury," he said. Bottom line, Gagne added, "I wasn't too worried about it. That's why I'm confident everything is okay." ... With Gagne in, Jones comes out. "It's the way it goes," Jones said. "There's injuries and my job was to stay sharp and if there was an opportunity to play, and I tried to use that as well as I could, and I felt I did a pretty good job." Jones had zero points, two shots and six hits and was minus-1 in three games. ... Forward Dana Tyrell, who has played just four playoff games because of a left foot injury sustained at a practice in Pittsburgh, skated again on Saturday and again with a red no-contact jersey. Boucher said the target is for Tyrell to be ready by next week.

Posted by Damian Cristodero at 1:00:38 pm on May 14, 2011