TAMPA — As the Lightning open a six-game homestand tonight, they’ll get lockdown center Anthony Cirelli back for the first time this season.
Cirelli will play his first game since offseason shoulder surgery tonight against the Maple Leafs. In morning skate, he centered a Lightning third line flanked by Ross Colton and Vladislav Namestnikov, and also will likely contribute on the penalty kill.
Cirelli’s last game action came in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final against Colorado on June 26. While Cirelli has been a full participant in practices for about two weeks, he still expects he’ll need some time to adjust to get into game form.
“I think quick shifts just to get my feet going a bit and just going out there and playing,” Cirelli said. “You’ve got to kind of go out there, just kind of work hard and try to see if the speed’s gonna be there and stuff. So you’ve got to kind of get adjusted a bit.”
Cirelli, one of the top two-way centers in the game, should help the Lightning shore up defensively. He’ll likely be lined up against the Leafs’ top scoring lines in the first meeting between the teams since Tampa Bay eliminated Toronto in the first round last season.
“The one thing about Tony is he is high-energy, tenacious,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “…He brings so many of those other things to the table. So when work ethic is your No. 1 asset, regardless if you haven’t played in a while, that’s something you carry with you and it’s a good trait to have.”
To make room for Cirelli to come off long-term injured reserve, the Lightning re-assigned rookie forward Cole Koepke to AHL Syracuse. Koepke made the team out of training camp and played 17 games, scoring one goal and averaging 9:06 of ice time. The team also placed defenseman Philippe Myers on waivers for the second time since training camp.
Steven Stamkos will be honored pre-game
The Lightning will have a special pre-game ceremony to recognize forward Steven Stamkos for becoming the first player in franchise history to record 1,000 points, an accomplishment he reached with a secondary assist in Thursday’s 4-1 win in Philadelphia.
That Stamkos, who grew up outside Toronto, will be celebrated before facing his hometown Leafs is ironic. Stamkos also passed Marty St. Louis’ Lightning career points record against the Leafs.
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“It’s kind of funny,” Stamkos said. “It just means a lot more friends will probably be watching the game because they watch the Leafs instead of us. So they’ll get to see it.”
Stamkos, who will have more family members traveling in from Toronto for the ceremony (which will start at 7:11 p.m.) will be joined on the ice by his wife Sandra, sons Carter and Chase, and parents Chris and Leslie. Presenters will include Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, teammates Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn, and NHL officiating manager Don Van Massenhoven.
“Too many to count probably,” Stamkos said when asked how many friends and family he was expecting. “A lot of ticket requests to today, so trying to fulfill everyone’s needs.”
Toronto’s Mitchell Marner better watch his sticks
Toronto forward Mitchell Marner goes into tonight’s game riding an 18-game point streak. And if it’s anything like when Stamkos scored a point in 18 straight games in his second year in the league in 2010, Marner should keep close tabs on his sticks.
Stamkos was asked what he remembered about his streak and said it was that his sticks went missing at the Toronto airport. They didn’t make it to Washington for his game the following day and Stamkos didn’t register a point.
“Marty St. Louis and I’s sticks went missing after the flight,” Stamkos said. “We were both on really good streaks and I think there were a few that I had left in the bag but not the ones that I was playing with. I’m not sure that happens anymore, but it certainly had happened in the past depending on which airports you go to — especially the ones where they love hockey — your sticks sometimes go missing. ... He’d better make sure his sticks are in his stall tonight.”
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