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Inside the Locker Room

Tampa Bay Lightning reinventing what it means to have a Top Nine

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
October 20, 2017

BRANDON – There are not many things in hockey that truly inventive.

But two weeks in to the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing some re-inventing of what means to have a top-nine utilizing fractured line combinations that feature all of the team’s top forwards.

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New Tampa Bay Lightning forward Chris Kunitz says no awkwardness in facing Pens:

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
October 11, 2017

TAMPA – Business as usual.

That’s the approach Chris Kunitz carries himself with on a daily basis.

So when Kunitz and the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, facing off against a team he spent nine years with while winning three Stanley Cups, it’s all going to be . . . business as usual.

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Tampa Bay Lightning shift at center right on Point

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
October 10, 2017

TAMPA – When the Tampa Bay Lightning juggled lines around for the final preseason game, they ended up being right on Point.

Throughout training camp and the preseason, the second-year forward was tried at left wing with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. He was given a look at right wing with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.

Then, finally, as training camp wound down, Point was placed at center, a role he’ll almost certainly stay for the foreseeable future.

”That’s where he is best,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said.

Considering the way Point has jumped out of the gate to start the season, it was the best decision for all interested parties.

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Coming off a career year, can Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman be better this season?

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
October 5, 2017

TAMPA – The glamor and spectacle of opening night is upon the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The glitz and lights will shine down on the ice as the full staff and roster is introduced to the crowd for the first time. There will be roars of cheers, the loudest of which will be reserved when Steven Stamkos emerges from the tunnel and steps back on the ice for his first NHL game since Nov. 15.

But the next loudest ovation should be reserved for No. 77, Victor Hedman.

Coming off a season in which the Hedman finished third in the Norris Trophy voting as the league’s top defenseman and led all defensemen with 56 assists, the former second overall pick set the standard extremely high.

Can he raise that bar? Does he need to?

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Tampa Bay Lightning analyst visited Dave Strader hours before he passed away

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
October 5, 2017

Brian Engblom didn’t know what to say to his longtime friend Dave Strader.

What do you say to someone, knowing it’s almost certainly the last time you will ever see or speak to them again?

Turns out, that last visit to see Strader in Glens Falls, N.Y., was the last time Engblom got the chance to speak to his longtime friend and former broadcast partner. Less than 36 hours after departing, Engblom received a text – Strader had passed away, finally losing his bout with cholangiocarcinoma, a form of cancer to the bile ducts.

”It was hard,’’ Engblom said. “It’s so sad.’’

Thursday was the first game ever played at the new Little Ceasers Arena in Detroit and Strader was originally tabbed to call the game on NBCSN, bringing him back to where his NHL career started in the Motor City. Next month, Strader was to be in Toronto as part of Hall of Fame weekend to accept the Foster Hewitt Award for his outstanding work in hockey broadcasting.

Instead, a memorial was held on Thursday for Strader in his hometown of Glen Falls with the funeral scheduled to take place on Friday to celebrate the life of a one of the most recognizable voices in hockey history, described by Mike “Doc” Emerick during a tribute on Wednesday as a “Hall of Fame Soul.’’.

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The new art of the draw requires adjustment from Lightning centers

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
October 4, 2017

TAMPA – The art of the draw requires a different stroke of the brush this season.

The artists of the faceoff circle this season must tweak their craft as the NHL looks to crackdown on faceoff violations to curb the amount of “cheating’’ that has crept too much into things before the puck gets dropped.

Players were angling their skates, set up outside of the t-markings on the ice. They were pushing forward, leaning in while trying to gain a positional advantage. Players would end up touching helmet-to-helmet before the puck was dropped, which started to create a safety hazard for the linesmen.

”It was probably getting a little out of hand,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “Everybody was cheating so bad, it turned in to a rugby scrum.’’

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Humble Yanni Gourde refuses to let last year affect his approach this year

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
September 28, 2017

SUNRISE – Yanni Gourde takes nothing for granted.

Even with a week to go before opening night, Gourde knows he has work to do. Nothing has been handed to him when it comes to the final roster decision. Not even as he looks to have a strong case to open the season as Tampa Bay’s third-line center based on his play in training camp.

And certainly not even based on his strong showing last season when he earned a late-season callup and thrived, helping the Lightning make a strong push toward a playoff spot. Not even earning his first NHL one-way contract is enough to make Gourde comfortable in his position.

He knows what happed yesterday has no bearing on what he does today. Or tomorrow. Or next week.

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Back on the ice for the first time in 10 months, Steven Stamkos looked like Steven Stamkos

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
September 22, 2017

TAMPA – Something felt different, yet it all felt familiar.

The only thing absent for Steven Stamkos? Nerves.

After 10 months away from the ice, 10 months since last playing in a game, Steven Stamkos looked like – Steven Stamkos.

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Conacher brothers, Cory and Shane, relishing chance to be teammates for the time being

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
September 21, 2017

BRANDON – Brother vs. Brother, helping one another.

The last time Cory and Shane Conacher shared the same ice in a professional setting, they lineup on opposite teams when they were at center ice for the opening faceoff when the Syracuse Crunch faced the Toronto Marlies (Shane had just been called up) last season.

Now, they share the same ice with the same jersey at Lightning training camp.

The two are trying to appreciate every moment, not knowing how long it’s going to last.

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Defenseman Oleg Sosunov standing out at Lightning camp for something other than his height

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
September 19, 2017

TAMPA – To walk past Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov is to crane one’s neck upwards to catch a glimpse of the 6-foot-8 defenseman.

Sosunov, a sixth-round pick from the 2016 draft, has certainly been turning plenty of heads at his first training camp, and it has to do with more than just his size.

A relative unknown in his draft year and looked at as a long-term project, Sosunov is already showing he has the potential to be another highly-touted prospect in the Lightning pipeline. His early showing in camp has earned the a spot in the preseason opening lineup against Carolina tonight at 7:30 p.m. as the 19-year-old takes an important step in his development who is already drawing some comparisons to another large defenseman.

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Mikhail Sergachev already starting to shine under spotlight in Tampa Bay Lightning camp

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
September 17, 2017

BRANDON – Mikhail Sergachev hung around practice following his second day on the ice as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning opting to put in some extra work.

When you see that the extra work involved feeding one-time passes to Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, you begin to get a glimpse as to what the 19-year-old is all about as a hockey player. Hanging around to practice one-timers with two of the top goal scorers in the league – pretty smart move, kid, pretty smart.

But it shouldn’t come as a surprise, once you start to understand how Sergachev is as a hockey player and a person.

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Jake Dotchin enters camp knowing last year means little for this year

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
September 16, 2017

TAMPA – Jake Dotchin proved a second-half sensation.

In some ways, he was sort of a semi-savior as Dotchin’s presence on the blue line, paired with Victor Hedman, helped solidify the Tampa Bay Lightning blue line that fueled the team’s late-season surge.

It was one hell of a debut.

But that was sooooooo last year.

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Season of Stamkos starts with the first step back on the ice with Tampa Bay Lightning

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
September 14, 2017

TAMPA – A hunger like never before sits inside Steven Stamkos.

Already driven to succeed, the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner doesn’t remember entering a training camp with the type of excitement level he feels this year as the Tampa Bay Lightning arrived at Amalie Arena on Thursday for physicals and media rounds.

But for Stamkos, this training camp offers the chance to put everything that has happened to him the past two seasons and get a fresh start. He is so ready to get things going.

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Tampa Bay Lightning defensive prospect depth no longer an offensive subject

HEADLINE: Lightning prospect depth no longer an offensive issue

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
Sept. 7, 2017

TAMPA - Al Murray sat in the stands of Amalie Arena on Thursday looking over the first day of Tampa Bay Lightning rookie camp.

The Lighting director of amateur scouting doesn’t look for anything in particular as he peers down upon many of the players he and his staff brought in to the organization. But it’s difficult not to notice some of the talent Tampa Bay is bringing in to the organization, especially in one particular area - defense.

A recent influx of defensive prospects has quickly turned an organizational area of perceived weakness in to a strength – perhaps for the first time in the Steve Yzerman era.

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Whispers of doubt only add to fuel Ryan Callahan's inner-fire as he prepares for new season

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
August 21, 2017


Ryan Callahan hears the whispers. He knows the voices are out there.

Callahan hopes those voices continue to echo through the back channels. They serve as fuel.

And Callahan can’t wait to get back on the ice to show them all exactly how wrong they are when the Lightning season begins Oct. 6 at home against Florida.

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With New York already far behind, Girardi and family already fully immersed in Tampa Bay Lightning

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
July 17, 2017

TAMPA – Pilfering though some belongings ahead of a moving day, 7-year-old Landon Girardi came across a pair of pajamas sporting the logo of the New York Rangers.

The oldest of Dan Girardi’s two children looked at his father and quickly pointed out, “We can throw these out, we don’t need them anymore.’’

If there were any lingering concerns about Girardi’s family feeling uprooted ahead of making the move from the New York Rangers, where Girardi played his entire career until he was bought out in June, to the Tampa Bay Lightning they were quickly squelched.

Everybody is all in, including the 33-year-old defenseman after Girardi signed a two-year contract worth $6 million with Tampa Bay on July 1.

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In joining Tampa Bay Lightning, Chris Kunitz believes fit is right to chase fifth Cup

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
July 13, 2017

Chris Kunitz knows how to throw a Stanley Cup party, having just hosted his fourth earlier this week.

This time around, the party was a little more tame than the previous ones as the family held a private pool party at their home in Pittsburgh. Things were so tame, the Stanley Cup didn’t even end up in the bottom of the swimming pool.

”Maybe it’s okay for the owner or the captain to get away with that,’’ Kunitz said with a grin.

Kunitz hopes to be able to host a fifth party with the Stanley Cup next summer. After signing with the Lightning as a free agent on July 1, he believes is in the right spot to make that happen.

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Mikhail Sergachev: "I love this team ... I think I’m ready for the NHL.''

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
June 28, 2017

BRANDON – Mikhail Sergachev quickly returned to North America, fresh off a European vacation just after winning a Memorial Cup championship.

It was while on vacation the former ninth overall pick from the 2016 draft found out he had been dealt from the Montreal Canadiens to the Tampa Bay Lightning. A move that not only altered his career path, but his vacation plans as well.

The 19-year-old defenseman arrived in Tampa late Tuesday and jumped right in to action Wednesday at the Lightning’s annual summer prospect camp. Even with a new pair of skates and new equipment that hadn’t been broken in, it was not hard to see why Sergachev is so highly regarded.

Right from the start, he stood out.

”I was with him in the elevator this morning. he's big, he's thick,’’ said Syracuse Crunch head coach Ben Groulx. “You can tell he's going to be an outstanding player. No doubt about it. He's mobile, pass the puck hard, shoots the puck, I was very impressed with him.’’

News: Lightning sign two, lose an assistant coach

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Erik Cernak arrives at prospect camp looking to make a strong first impression

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
June 27, 2017

BRANDON - Sitting on a bus with his Erie Otter teammates, Erik Cernak found out he was a new teammate of one of his current teammates.

Cernak had just received word that he had just been traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the deal that sent Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 27. One of the first people to share the news with him was Taylor Raddysh, a teammate in Erie for two seasons. Raddysh was selected in the second round by Tampa Bay in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

The pair shared a quick laugh about the news.

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How one call altered Dave Andreychuk's path to the Hall of Fame

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
June 26, 2017

One phone call steered Dave Andreychuk toward the path that led to hockey immortality.

The call he received on Monday completed that journey.

Dave Andreychuk will enter the Hockey Hall of Fame, enshrined alongside the greats of the game.

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A look at draft weekend strategy and beyond for Tampa Bay Lightning

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
June 22, 2017

Chicago – Walk tall and tread lightly.

That’s the approach the Lightning carry in to NHL Entry Draft weekend and beyond heading in to next season.

While the main focus of the weekend centers around the drafting future prospects, it’s also the time of year many teams do some wheeling and dealing, or at least start to lay the groundwork for potential deals.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman enters the weekend keeping his eye on all of that and more.

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Tampa Bay Lightning lose a defenseman as Vegas Golden Knights make their expansion picks

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
June 21, 2017

The Vegas Golden Knights are official.

The 2017 expansion draft selections were revealed on Wednesday during the NHL Awards show as the 30 selected players to form the initial roster of the league’s newest franchise were made know, just over 72 hours since the protected list of players were announced.

Every team in the league were affected by the expansion draft in some capacity. Vegas general manager George McPhee spent plenty of time wheeling, dealing and, of course, selecting players.

And, of course, this had an impact on the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were among the teams to pull off a deal with the Golden Knights to influence the selection of the player off the Lightning roster.

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A day at the beach changes MIkhail Sergachev's hockey path

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
June 16, 2017

What do 18-year-old Russian defensemen do after capturing a Memorial Cup championship?

Hanging out at a beach in Cyprus seems to be high on the list.

That’s where Mikhail Sergachev was on Thursday when he found out that he had just been dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning. But it wasn’t Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman or Montreal GM Marc Bergevin who informed Sergachev that he was on the move.

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Tampa Bay Lightning trade Jonathan Drouin, swaping the talented forward for defensive prospect

By Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
June 15, 2017

The Lightning are a team oozing with top caliber forward talent.

That took a big hit on Thursday as Tampa Bay moved talented winger Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens in a move that caught many around the league by surprise.

In exchange for Drouin, the Lightning receive prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, the ninth overall pick in the 2016 draft. There are conditional draft picks involved as well – if Sergachev fails to appear in at least 40 games next season, including playoff games, Tampa Bay will receive the Washington Capitals second round pick (previously acquired by Montreal) in the 2018 NHL Draft while Tampa Bay would send a 2018 sixth-round pick in 2018 to the Canadiens.

Tampa Bay clearly coveted a high-profile defensive prospect to add to the organization and used Drouin to acquire one. It came at a high price, even for a prospect as highly regarded as Sergachev.

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How Paul Mara's new coaching career came out of the red, white and blue

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
May 8, 2017

Tampa, Fla. – Paul Mara stood on the outskirts Friday afternoon as the Olympic roster for the U.S. Women’s team was announced during a televised event at Amalie Arena.

The former Tampa Bay Lightning first-round pick in 1997, back in the building for the first time since his playing days ended, is now full bore in to his second career as a coach. That new path will lead him to Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February for the 2018 Winter Olympics as a member of Team USA women’s hockey team.

”It’s incredible,’’ Mara said. “It’s such a privilege, an honor and a thrill to be part of the Olympic team. We have one goal for the next eight months and that’s what our focus is and that’s to bring home gold.’’

Getting the opportunity to be a part of the Olympics came almost completely out of the red, white and blue.

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U.S. Women's Olympic team named, will train in Tampa this Fall

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
May 5, 2017

Tampa, Fla. –

Florida has been so nice, USA Hockey will train here twice.

After spending the week at Florida Hospital Center Ice for Olympic selection camp to select the team that will represent the U.S. at the 2018 Olympics, USA Hockey announced on Friday that the women’s Olympic team will return in September for a four-month residency camp to prepare for the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

The announcement was made at Amalie Arena, just prior to the full 23-player roster being revealed during a live broadcast on NHL Network, a group that includes 12 players who were also on the team in 2014.

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Exclusive interview with Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, Part Two

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
April 20, 2017

BRANDON, Fla. For five months, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos spent countless hours working his way back from knee surgery that cost him all but 17 games of the season.

For most of that time, Stamkos worked behind the scenes and out of the public eye, doing extensive rehab with the medical training staff of Tom Mulligan and Mike Poirier. As the season came to a close on April 9, Stamkos did not get back to full health and was unable to find his way back in the lineup.

So with the season now in the rearview mirror, Stamkos is zeroed in on putting everything that happened this season behind him and focused on getting ready for the 2017-18 season. The rehab will continue all through the summer and he will be back to 100-percent when training camp comes around.

Before leaving for town for the summer, Stamkos granted LightningInsider.com an exclusive interview where he touched on a number of subjects. In this second part of that interview, Stamkos addresses just how close he was to returning this season and some of the inner-battles he has the last two weeks of the season, what his summer training will look like and his feelings on the NHL (presumably) not going to the Olympics.

You can find the first half of the interview here.

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Lighting Insider exclusive interview with Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, part one

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
April 19, 2017

BRANDON, Fla. For five months, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos spent countless hours working his way back from knee surgery that cost him all but 17 games of the season.

For most of that time, Stamkos worked behind the scenes and out of the public eye, doing extensive rehab with the medical training staff of Tom Mulligan and Mike Poirier. As the season came to a close on April 9, Stamkos did not get back to full health and was unable to find his way back in the lineup.

So with the season now in the rearview mirror, Stamkos is zeroed in on putting everything that happened this season behind him and focused on getting ready for the 2017-18 season. The rehab will continue all through the summer and he will be back to 100-percent when training camp comes around.

Before he leaves town for the summer, Stamkos granted LightningInsider.com an exclusive interview where he touched on a number of subjects. In this first part of that interview, Stamkos touches on how dark things were when he was diagnosed with a torn meniscus, how this rehab went compared to his previous two injuries, whether he picked up any new hobbies to take his mind off rehab and how difficult it was to watch the team struggle during the first three-plus months of the season.

Part two is here.

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How close was Stamkos to a return and how healthy will he be come September?

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
April 10, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - Packed bags circled around the Lightning locker room on Monday.

On the day 16 teams around the NHL began preparing for postseason play, Tampa Bay packed things up and closed up shop at Amalie Arena until September.

When the Lightning do assemble again for training camp, just how healthy does captain Steven Stamkos figure to be is one of the biggest questions that will be asked before, during and after camp.

Stamkos missed the final four-plus months following knee surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee. And even though it appeared he was close to a possible return before the end of the season, it never really was close.

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Oops, Andrej Sustr picked what for his personal goal song?

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 29, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - Andrej Sustr cut down the right circle, drove the post and arrived in time to have a cross-ice pass from Ondrej Palat knock off his pads and in to the net early in the second period.

Almost immediately as the puck entered the net, the entire Lightning bench erupted in laughter.

Right at that moment, when the celebratory goal song usually blares through the public address system, something a bit different came across the speaker system inside Amalie Arena.

Instead of ”Fluxland’’ by XL coming across the speakers, Briteny Spears filled the arena with ”Oops, I Did It Again’’ played to the delight of the players on the bench.

It was not any sort of a slip of the fingers from the in-arena presentation team. It was by design.

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Stamkos status changed to day-to-day, but is that Thursday? Saturday?

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 29, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - Steven Stamkos experienced another break-through day.

Now, the Lightning captain is day-to-day.

That’s how his return to the lineup is now measured – in days.

But what day?

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A look at the unorthodox move of returning a young goaltender to his crease

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 28, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - Andrei Vasilevskiy took the skate of shame Monday night, forced to exit his crease back to the team bench.

After giving up three goals in the opening 13 minutes in a game the Lightning had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, head coach Jon Cooper wanted to get the team’s attention and put in veteran Peter Budaj.

But it was Cooper’s next move that caught everybody’s attention.

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Steven Stamkos nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the PHWA

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 27, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has been selected by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association as the Lightning selection for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. One nominee from each team is selected by local chapters of the PHWA before the winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.

Stamkos has missed most of the 2016-17 season after undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee, suffered on Nov. 15 during a game at Detroit. He underwent surgery on Nov. 17 and has yet to return to the lineup.

But it took a lot of dedication, hard work and perseverance for Stamkos to get back in position to rejoin the team for practice in an attempt to rejoin the team for the final two weeks of the regular season.

It is those qualities that stood out and among voters to select Stamkos as the team’s nominee this season.

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Despite season-crippling loss, Lightning vow they still have fight left in their game

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 22, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Tuesday was bad. Like bad, bad.

Can’t lose to the Arizona Coyotes on March 21 when you sit four points out of a playoff spot. Can’t get swept in a two-game season series to a team that sits 29th overall in league standings and expect to even be considered as a playoff candidate.

Yet, Tampa Bay failed to hold on to a lead entering the third period and didn’t have the look of a team committed to winning the game even as it was a billed as a must-win game.

”There’s been a lot of frustrating games this year, his ranks up there though just with how important the game is to us,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “That 3-2 lead at home going into the third in a must-win for us. To give it up like we did, it’s frustrating to say the least.’’

Now, with only 10 games on the schedule remaining, every game is a must-win.

Just don’t expect the Lightning to give up, even if all it takes is one last tap of the hammer to drive the final nail in to the coffin of the season.

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Tampa Bay Lightning welcome quick break before final 11-game stretch drive

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 19, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – The condensed schedule put in to effect this season by the NHL claims every team at some point.

In a season compressed by the World Cup of Hockey at the start of the season and the implementation of the bye week – a stretch of seven days between games – that every team experienced this season, the pay back comes in the form of playing a group of games in to a small window on the calendar.

With Saturday’s loss to Washington, Tampa Bay completed a set of six games in 10 nights, it’s the third such grouping of games this season. But with how had the Lightning have had to push to climb out of the cellar and in to playoff contention and with a lineup that included eight players that were either in the minors or with another team at the start of the season.

A crash of some sort shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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Steven Stamkos is back . . . on the ice for first full practice with Tampa Bay Lightning

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 17, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Steven Stamkos is back!.

Or, at least he’s back on the ice with his teammates.

Stamkos participated in his first full practice with the Lightning since undergoing surgery on Nov. 17 to repair partially torn meniscus in his right knee. Friday marked the four-month mark since the surgery in what was expected to be a four-to-six month recovery process.

Tampa Bay’s captain has been cleared for contact.

With 12 games remaining in the season and the Lightning one point out of a playoff spot, all eyes will be on Stamkos wondering exactly when he will return to the lineup.

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Late-season matchup between Lightning and Leafs lends itself to great theatre

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 15, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Now the sprint begins.

With 13 games remaining in the regular season for Tampa Bay and the Lightning now tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference – the Islanders own the tie breaker based on more regulation/overtime wins – the intensity now starts to ramp up to new levels.

With the return of former Lightning forward Brian Boyle and the Toronto Maple Leafs in town for a Thursday showdown 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Sun, 970-AM, tblpowerplay.com with big time playoff implications, the spotlight burns brighter.

And with the bright lights coming down, the one question many want to know, what does it all mean for the Lightning’s biggest star – Steven Stamkos?

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Youthful experience and bliss combining to keep Lightning in the race

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 12, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Taking a peek around the Lightning locker room these days is equivalent to walking in to a classroom late in the school year.

So many faces have changed from the start of the year.

As Tampa Bay gets set to face off against the New York Rangers (7 p.m., Fox Sports Sun, 970-AM, tblpowerplay.com), seven of the 20 skates to suit up on opening night against Detroit will be absent from the lineup. That number could be eight depending on the injury status of Vladislav Namestnikov.

And since the trade deadline, the Lightning became the third youngest team in the league with an average age of 26.4 years. In Saturday’s victory against Florida, Tampa Bay had nine players in the lineup under the age of 25.

Yet, they are still an experienced team

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Lightning make no callups on Friday despite injuries, so who dresses on Saturday?

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 10, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Making a best-case scenario out of the worst-looking situation.

That was the feel, at least, as the Lightning returned to the ice for practice on Friday, less than 24 hours after seeing three of the team’s centers lost to injury during a victory against Minnesota.

Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette all had to be helped off the ice with left leg injuries and did not return, leaving Tampa Bay with just eight forwards for the remainder of the game and 10 on the active roster . All three injured players were not on the ice for practice, which was not a surprise.

But what was a surprise is Tampa Bay did not make any call ups from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Friday, ahead of Saturday’s critical game against the Florida Panthers and any potential callups were on the ice for the Crunch ahead of their game against Springfield Friday night, though a call up can still be made after the game or Saturday morning Update: Matt Peca was recalled Saturday morning.

So what does that mean for the Lightning lineup and does it have any effect on the status of captain Steven Stamkos?

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Vasilevskiy assuming role he was always meant to play

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 7, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Since Andrei Vasilevkiy heard his name called at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, made his way to the draft stage and put his arms around Lightning personnel, he seemed destined for the job he now holds.

When Tampa Bay’s season turned south at the end of the 2011-12 season and general manager Steve Yzerman started turning veteran players in to future assets, he had one specific goal in mind – land an additional first-round draft pick with the idea of finding a goaltender.

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Kucherov stepping up for Lightning when they need him most

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 5, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Nikita Kucherov is riding a stretch of King Midas hockey right now because it seems everything he touches turns to goals.

Even his shootout attempts these days are something to behold.

At a point in the season in which Tampa Bay needs somebody to step up and try to carry them on an improbable ride up the standings, it has been Kucherov putting his best skate forward. And over the past week, it’s been quite the ride.

When the league hands out its “Three stars of the week’’ on Monday, Kucherov is almost certain to have his name on that list. In four games last week, Kucherov registered five goals and nine points as Tampa Bay went 3-1 to keep playoff hopes alive.

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Trade deadline emotions took thier toll on Lightning, but its time to move forward

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 2, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – From the outside looking in, it’s easy to tell somebody to suck it up and do their job.

Professional athletes are just that, professionals. They are paid to do a job. Fans have expectations and they want to see players perform at to the best of their abilities.

But like any job, sometimes you are not at your best for a particular day.

The Lightning, collectively, had one of those days on Wednesday. It’s not an excuse for how the team played against Carolina, but it is an explanation.

Following the events of an emotional four days, it took its toll on the Lightning.

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Recapping trade deadline day and what it all means

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
March 1, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Steve Yzerman arrived in the Lightning work room just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday with the look of exhaustion after completing a complicated task.

After an energy-draining four-days of action leading up to the NHL trade deadline, Yzerman felt the job at hand turned out as planned to alleviate some of the team’s salary cap concerns after this season.

As the trade deadline passed on Wednesday, Yzerman finished things off by sending veteran center Valtteri Filppula along with a fourth round pick and a conditional seventh round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Mark Streit. The Flyers retain 4.7 percent of Streit’s contract.

Yzerman then sent Streit to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a fourth-round pick while Tampa Bay retains 50 percent of Streit’s contract for the rest of this season.

Tampa Bay also sent minor league goaltender Adam Wilcox to the Florida Panthers for veteran goaltender Mike McKenna.

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Lightning wheeling and dealing ahead of the trade deadline, move Boyle to Toronto

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
February 27, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – The wheeling and dealing continued for Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman on Monday.

With the trade deadline approaching, Yzerman has been out in front of the market having already dealt goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings Sunday night.

On Monday, after claiming center Greg McKegg off waivers from the Florida Panthers, Yzerman dealt popular veteran forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a 2017 second-round pick (the highest of three Toronto second round picks) and minor league center Byron Froese, who was assigned to Syracuse of the American Hockey League.

Tampa Bay also recalled forwards Adam Erna and Yanni Gourde from Syracuse earlier in the day.

With two days left before the deadline -which is Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST – the Lightning have already dealt Bishop and Boyle along with a fifth-round pick in exchange for veteran goaltender Peter Budaj, Froese, a second round pick, a conditional pick that potentially could be a second round pick and 19-year-old prospect defenseman Erik Cernak.

And Yzerman may not be done.

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As he offers a good bye, Ben Bishop says Lightning in good hands with Vasilevskiy

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
February 27, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Ben Bishop will always be remembered by the fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The big man with the big heart and a personality to match endeared himself to this community with every save and victory to help lead the Lightning to prominence. And Bishop embraced this area.

Before Bishop suited up for his first game with the Los Angeles Kings, he granted an exclusive interview with LightningInsider.com and had a special message for a Tampa Bay hockey community that welcomed him like a neighbor, to a community he calls a friend.


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Reliving the Drouin overtime shift from those who called the game

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
February 22, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Forty-six seconds.

That was the length of Jonathan Drouin’s overtime shift on Sunday at Colorado.

It was truly a marvelous shift to watch develop. With a dogged determination, a desire to make a difference and the will to do something spectacular to help his team win, Drouin scored one of the best goals of the season and what might be one of the best regular season goals in franchise history.

So while the highlight goal was underwhelming in the coverage it received on the national level – imagine if that was Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid that did something like that - it is worth revisiting.

No better to relive shift from start to finish than through the eyes of those broadcasting the game live for the team, Rick Peckham, Dave Mishkin and Brian Engblom.

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Glory days revisited during Tampa Bay Lightning alumni game

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
February 19, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Glory days, they’ll pass you by in the wink of a young girl’s eye.

When Bruce Springsteen belts out those lyrics, he discusses bygone days of youth. A time when the world seems as if it will never end, friendships last forever and the good times are endless.

But there is always a harsh reality that at some point, those days of glory get reduced to memories, flashes of a different era, a time in one’s life that brings smiles and laughter when those thoughts come to mind.

Pro athletes talk about this part of their lives in romantic tones once they skate away from the game. So when they are able to gather again with old teammates, it seems like old times.

Glancing around the Lightning locker room on Saturday afternoon, it looked like old times as well.

Click here to see photo album from the game

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Lecavalier diving right in to retirement

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
February 15, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - Still toting around his hockey bag from the Los Angeles Kings, which holds his grey practice jersey and black L.A. helmet with the No. 44 on the back, Vinny Lecavalier stepped on the ice at Amalie Arena looking like he was ready to join the Lightning for another practice.

But the former first overall pick in 1998, who served as captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning and proved the face of the franchise for more than a decade, takes things a bit more slow these days, and that includes when he steps on the ice.

"You skate around but you just don't feel the same physically once you get on the ice, it's just not the same,'' Lecavalier said. "Everything is kind of slow motion right now when you don't do anything for seven or eight months, it seems that everything is about 40-percent slower.''

Lecavalier returned to the Amalie Arena ice on Thursday as part of a Lightning alumni team that is preparing to face the Boston Bruins alumni team as part of Hockey Day in Tampa Bay. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door with all proceeds to charity.

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Concept of bye weeks offers rest but some call the idea "stupid''

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
February 13, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Now the Lightning rest while battling restlessness.

Tampa Bay entered its bye week on Sunday, a new wrinkle in the league this season where each team has a full week of time between games. The players are given five days away from the rink with no team-related activities, including practice, during that time.

Practice resumes on Friday at Amalie Arena before returning to the schedule on Saturday at Dallas, the first of the final 26 games of the season for the Lightning, which is fighting to remain in playoff contention.

So while they sit idle for a week, basking in whatever sunshine the players seek out, the Lightning wait to find out where they will rest in the league standings by the time they return.

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Tampa Bay Lightning feeling positive vibe heading in to game against L.A.

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
February 6, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – For months, the Lightning have talked plenty about trying to get on a roll, any kind of a roll, and start compiling some points.

For months, that’s all it’s been is talk.

The time for action has long since passed. So there’s no time like the present to make it happen.

The next chance to turn words in to actions comes Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, 970-AM) as the Lightning look to win consecutive games for the first time since before Christmas.

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Jake Dotchin making most of his first NHL chance

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
February 3 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – Sometimes in the midst of a darkened season destined for doom, an unexpected bright spot shines a little light among the dinginess.

As the organization falls deeper down the standings with just one win in the past seven games and on the verge of seeing the season unofficially end long before many would have predicted, a handful of players have been brought up from Syracuse to make their NHL debuts.

The latest is defenseman Jake Dotchin, the fifth player this season to play their first career NHL game with the Lightning. Dotchin figures to stick around a little longer, earning a spot in the lineup on a regular basis as he’s set to appear in his sixth game since being called up with Tampa Bay hosts Anaheim on Saturday (7 p.m., Fox Sports Sun, 970-AM and tblpowerplay.com at Amalie Arena.

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Following All-Star Break Tampa Bay Lightning hope winning formula translates

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
January 30, 2017

BRANDON, Fla. – The right mindset remains in place.

The results have yet to fall in line.

That’s the approach the Tampa Bay Lightning are taking heading in to the post-All Star break schedule, which begins Tuesday when Tampa Bay hosts the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Sun, 970-AM and tblpowerplay.com at Amalie Arena.

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Tampa Bay Lightning head west in the hopes of mining wins

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
January 15, 2017

For years, fortune chasers from the east were told to go west in the search for success.

"Go West, young man'' was the rallying cry heard across North America, creating a rush to the left coast.

While gold was the target back in those days, the Lightning now head out west seeking to turn their fortunes around, with the chase for silver on their mind in the form of an over-sized Cup the prize at the end of the chase.

For the chase to feel real, Tampa Bay’s current fortunes need to be turned starting with the first of a six-game road trip that starts out west with Monday’s game at Los Angeles (Fox Sports Sun, 970-AM, 4 p.m.)

It has the feel of a trip that will make-or-break Tampa Bay’s season.

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The legacy of Marty St. Louis, from castaway to champion to legend

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
January 13, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - Passion.







Marty St. Louis filled all those roles throughout his career. The heart and soul of a franchise who defied anybody who challenged his will to succeed. He played with that chip on his shoulder and it drove him to heights few outside of himself thought he would achieve.

The 5-foot-9ish forward from the Montreal suburb of Laval, Quebec, blazed his own path to stardom on the ice in a region of known for gridirons, golf courses and palm trees – Tampa.

For 13 years, St. Louis starred on the ice at Amalie Arena, transforming himself to an also-ran run out of Calgary in to an MVP, league scoring champion and Stanley Cup winner.

The kid from Quebec found his hockey home in Florida.

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Countdown to St. Louis jersey retirement: Top 10 Marty moments


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
January 5, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - The career of former Lightning captain Marty St. Louis will be honored on the night of Jan. 13 when his jersey will rise to the rafters inside Amalie Arena in an hour-long ceremony.

With such a long and storied history while playing for Tampa Bay, there is a lot to be honored. The ceremony itself is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. before facing the Columbus Blue Jackets, which is not scheduled to begin until 8 p.m.

As we get close to the night the first retired jersey in franchise history, let's start a countdown of the the top 10 moments for St. Louis involving the Lightning jersey. Hopefully you'll remember some of those moments with deep fondness and remember what St. Louis truly meant to the franchise and how he helped them become champions along the way.

Check back each day leading up to the jersey retirement ceremony.

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Bowness on defensive mindset: "We've lost it''


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
January 4, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - Defensive stalwarts.

That's what the Lightning coaching staff strives to see out of the players.

Take care of the puck. Take care of your own end. Pay attention to detail.

Among all the offensive skill and firepower Tampa Bay can put on the ice, it's been the defensive play that helped vault the Lightning in to the elite in the league.

But that was before this year. Now?

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Vasielvskiy settling in to the starting role


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
January 2, 2017

BRANDON, Fla. - As the Lightning entered the Christmas break, the goaltending - normally a strength of this team over the past few years - came under some fire.

Ben Bishop was injured, diagnosed with a lower body injury suffered during a game on Dec. 20 and expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Andrei Vasilevskiy was immediately thrust in to the role of filling in as the No. 1 goaltender.

But when he faltered on a back-to-back situations in Washington, questions about whether he was ready to take on the role started to creep in to the equation.

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Top 10 Lightning story lines from 2016


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
January 1, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. - It was quite a dramatic year for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

There were plenty of storylines and drama that unfolded to fill a prime time soap opera that would rival Dallas, short of any "Who Shot J.R." cliffhangers (look it up, it was the event of that television season).

That left plenty of options to choose from to find the top storylines from the 2016 calendar year for this franchise. Click below to see what were the top 10 of the year, in no particular order.

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Matthew Peca calm despite making his NHL debut

by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
December 29, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. - Matthew Peca just came off the ice following his first shift with the Lightning.

Just over 24 hours after being called up from Syracuse of the American Hockey League, Peca had just made his NHL debut.

The 23-year-old former seventh-round draft pick, however, said it felt like any other hockey shift he's taken in his career.

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Lightning start important 5-game stretch with healthier lineup


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
December 27, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. - The Lightning entered the three-day Christmas break with a long wish list for the holidays.

Following a loss in Washington in the final game before the break, Tampa Bay was missing more than a handful of regulars from the lineup, and in the course of that game against the Capitals, two more players went down to injury and did not return.

That left the Lightning wondering exactly what the post-break lineup might look like as Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Cedric Paquette, Vladislav Namestnikov were already out. Jonathan Drouin and Braydon Coburn left the game against Washington while Victor Hedman missed the final minutes of the second period, but was able to return for the third period.

That was already on top of the long term absences of Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Ben Bishop.

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Tanner Richard experiences first NHL game with Lightning, again


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
December 22, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. - Tanner Richard stepped on to the ice at Amalie Arena just before faceoff on Dec. 20 to take his place along the blue line. As Sonya Bryson began to belt out the National Anthem, Richard was overcome with the emotions of a 20-year journey.

For the second time, the 24-year-old experienced the first NHL game of his life inside Amalie Arena.

"Just at that moment on the blue line there, where you are quiet and just listening, my head was wandering around, just looking around, that's when I got lost,'' Richard said. "My mind started racing on just a bunch of reflections, just pictures and images of hockey moments in my life that led up to that. So I sort of lost it in that moment right there.''

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Is Jonathan Drouin starting to emerge as an elite player?


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
December 19, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. – Jonathan Drouin has experienced more starts and stops in his brief NHL career than a commuter driving Dale Mabry during rush hour.

But might we finally be starting to see the Drouin the Lightning envisioned when using the third overall selection in the 2013 draft on the talented forward?

In the long term absence of Steven Stamkos, the Lightning need somebody to help fill that offensive void. With Nikita Kucherov out for the past three games and his status unclear for Tuesday's game against Detroit (Fox Sports Sun, 7:30 p.m.), Drouin has been an offensive catalyst.

That's a trend the Lightning want to see continue

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Renaissance Man Brian Boyle hopes to remain with Lightning next year


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
December 15, 2016

Superstars garner headlines.
Role players fill in the paragraphs.

The stars score the goals that lead to success.
Role players do the detail oriented jobs that rarely show up in a box score.

Then there is Brian Boyle, hockey’s version of a Renaissance Man who can do it all.

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Ben Bishop says contract status not an excuse for his sub-par numbers


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
December 9, 2016

BRANDON, Fla. – Ben Bishop exudes confidence. It pours out of him like sweat beading down off his forehead during a double overtime playoff game.

Yet, something seems amiss this season. Things look a little off.

Certainly the numbers Bishop has posted this season show he's not the same. An 8-10-1 record, 2.86 goals against average and .906 save percentage are far from expectations for a two-time Vezina Trophy Finalist who led the league in save percentage last season. He likely will not be starting when Tampa Bay hosts the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday (Fox Sports Sun, 7 p.m.), though that decision is likely more based on the schedule and not performance.

But why does Bishop, who knocked a puck that caromed off the end boards in to his own net with his glove, look like somebody who's lost his confidence?

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Stamkos lost for four months following knee surgery


by Erik Erlendsson | @Erik_Erlendsson | Like us on Facebook
November 20, 2016

BRANDON, Fla. – The Lightning once again face life without captain Steven Stamkos for a lengthy period of time.

Stamkos underwent surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee and will be out approximately four months. The procedure was performed by Dr. Robert LaPrade at the Steadman Clinic in Vail,

The injury occurred during the first period of a game at Detroit when Stamkos was stretched along the boards, fell to the ice and twisted around before regaining his footing. As he stood back up on his skates, he reached for his right knee and flexed it a couple of times before heading to the bench.

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