Back in November, the first time former Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier played at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, he said he pretty much was counting the days until the game. But about tonight's game at the Times Forum, the Flyers center said a lot of the emotions have died down.
"I wouldn't say it's business as usual, but it's not like the first time," he said. "But it's still special to be here."
Lecavalier, who in June was bought out of his Lightning contract and then signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Flyers, comes to Tampa on a bit of a hot streak with two goals, four points in his past two games and six goals, 11 points in his past 14.
Much of that has to do with his return to center after spending a miserable 35 games -- Lecavalier knew the exact number -- at left wing.
"That's definitely something that got me skating more," Lecavalier said of playing in the middle. "Playing left wing was a tough adjustment. I like being on the right side. I like being in the middle. It's a lot more natural for me, a lot more skating. I just feel better there as a player."
Lecavalier, who turns 34 on April 21, also has 403 goals, having reached the 400-goal mark March 30 against the Bruins.
"It's not something I was thinking about," said Lecavalier, who has 20 goals, 37 points and is minus-14 this season in 66 games. "It just kind of happened, but it's something I'm proud of."
He also is proud of a Flyers team that began 1-7-0 but still made the playoffs.
"I think it's a great accomplishment from where we started," Lecavalier said. "A lot of character in the room. You can tell, even when we were 1-7, guys hated losing and wanted to turn it around and we did. We built confidence, and once you get to .500, now it's time to go, and we did."
As for tonight's game, Lecavalier hopes it goes better than his first trip to Tampa, where Philadelphia lost 4-2, though he did score a goal.
Other stuff from the morning skate: With 95 points and three games left, the Lightning still has a chance to get home ice for its first-round playoff series with the Canadiens, who have 98 points and two games remaining. ... Anders Lindback gets the start in net tonight. ... Defenseman Sami Salo (upper body) is out, though coach Jon Cooper said he expects Salo to play in at leasty one of Tampa Bay's final two regular-season games. ... Defenseman Mike Kostka is back in the lineup and paired with Victor Hedman. Kostka hasn't played since April 1, when he was momentarily knocked unconscious and sustained a concussion from an elbow to the jaw from Montreal's Douglas Murray, who was suspended three games. "In talking to the trainers and stuff, they said it's weird that sometimes the ones that look the worst are sometimes the ones that turn out to be quick recoveries," Kostka said. "There's really no rhyme or reason why you recover at the speed that you do." Another reason for his quick recovery, Kostka said, it was his first concussion. ... Goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, called up from AHL Syracuse after Ben Bishop injuired his elbow Tuesday against the Maple Leafs, might get into a game, Cooper said. And the second of back-to-back games Friday at home against the Blue Jackets is an opportunity. If Gudlevskis does play, it is believed he will be the first goalie to play in the ECHL, AHL, Olympics and NHL in the same season. "I don't think about that," Gudlevskis said. "You can't think too much if you are a goalie. You just go step-by-step, game-by-game. We'll see where it's going to go." Gudlevskis made worldwide headlines at the Sochi Olympics where, playing for Latvia, he made 55 saves in a 2-1 loss to Canada in the quarterfinals. "For me, it's the NHL, that's my biggest dream," Gudlevskis said. "It's still hard to imagine I'm in this loocker room. It's pretty big. If you come from a small country like Latvia, it's much more of a big thing." ... Speaking of Murray's hit on Kostka, Cooper said retaliation is not necessarily on the agenda for their first-round playoff series. "Eventually that stuff comes around anyway at some point. But I truly believe Doug Murray didn't mean to hit Mike Kostka in the head. He meant to hit him, no question. I just think he instinctively reacted when he saw he might get beat, but by no mens do I think he went in there saying I'm going right for his head."