Friday, March 30, 2007

Vinny Gets #50, Bolts Win: TB 4 - CAR 2

Vinny Lecavalier hit the 50 goal mark, and Filip Kuba netted the game winner as the Lightning beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 in Raleigh. Lecavalier netted his 50th on a backhand spin-o-rama from the top of the left circle late in the third to put the Bolts up by 2. "It was probably the luckiest goal I ever scored" Lecavalier said. With the win comes a huge 2 points in the standings, putting the Lightning at 88, 3 behind Atlanta for the Southeast lead. Johan Holmqvist was given the reigns as the #1 prior to the game by Tortorella, and did not dissappoint. He only surrendered 2 goals and was solid in the third making a nubmer of key saves. "I'm very excited, this is the time of the year you want to play." Holmqvist said after the game. The Lightning now head home to face the Caps in the first of 3 games at home before finishing the season on the road in Atlanta.

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Game Preview: TB vs. Car (updated)

With just over a week left in the regular season, six teams in the Eastern Conference are separated by only three points for the final three playoff spots. The Lightning (41-32-4) are in seventh place with 86 points and the Hurricanes (38-31-8) are 11th with 84.

These teams could have created more separation in the standings, but both have been blown out in their last two games. Carolina has been outscored 11-2 over that span, while Tampa Bay has been outscored 12-4.

Tampa Bay, still battling with Atlanta for the Southeast Division title, lost 5-2 to Florida on Tuesday.

"This hurts. This game really hurts right now," Lightning captain Tim Taylor said. "All is not lost. We have to remain positive. You never want a team thinking negative thoughts."

Tampa Bay, which won the Stanley Cup in 2004, is trying to earn its fourth straight playoff appearance, but has lost seven of its last 11.

"We're taking the long route here, that's for sure, about getting in," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We are going to get in. We're just going around the block. We're going to get there. It's a guarantee."

Martin St. Louis is two points away from joining Vincent Lecavalier as the only two players in Tampa Bay history to reach 100 points in a season. St. Louis has scored in each of his last five games against the Hurricanes, registering seven goals and three assists in those contests.

Lecavalier, who has four goals and two assists in his last five games against Carolina, recorded his 100th point on Saturday.

Marc Denis allowed three goals on 14 shots Tuesday before being pulled during the second intermission for Johan Holmqvist, who stopped all seven shots he faced. They have been splitting time this season, but Holmqvist could get the start in this game because of his better numbers against Carolina.

He's 1-1-0 with a 1.58 GAA in three games against the Hurricanes this season, while Denis is 2-2-0 with a 4.09 GAA in five appearances against them.

Update: Holmer will start in net tonight, Ranger may be in line up.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Holmer, Denis or Ramo?

The on going discussion surrounding the Bolts has been who should finish the season in net as the Lightning's #1 netminder. This goalie by committee has got to end. Denis can't handle the role of #1, so I personally want Holmqvist in there. I am less than impressed, to put it lightly, with the performance of Denis this season, (see the last game against Florida) and I think putting in Ramo would be like throwing in the towel. My decision is not just based on emotion however, lets look at the stats:

GP: 43
W: 17
L: 18
GAA: 3.17
SV%: .884

GP: 43
W: 24
L: 14
GAA: 2.86
SV%: .891

The team just plays better with Holmer in net. There is less of a need for the defense to be tenative, and when he's on he's incredible. Plus he has playoff-like experience having seen acion in last year's World Championships leading Sweeden to the Gold and putting up a 5-0 record with 2 shutouts, and a 2.00 GAA. The kid plays big when the pressure is on.

Denis has never seen playoff action either and in the World Championships back stopped Canada to the Silver, going 4-1 with a 2.51 GAA.

That's my take, chime in with yours and choose your man in the poll.

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Lightning ink affiliate deal with Norfolk

From TSN:

The American Hockey League's Norfolk Admirals have announced a multi-year affiliation agreement with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Admirals will serve as the Lightning's primary minor league affiliate starting with the 2007-08 season.

The Lightning organization will provide the Admirals with the full roster of players, and current Springfield Falcons head coach Steve Stirling and assistant coach Darren Rumble remain under contract to the Lightning organization and will take over the coaching duties in Norfolk next season.

''I could not be happier to have the Admirals affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning,'' said Admirals president Ken Young. ''We are thrilled to be able to partner with such a successful and first-class organization for the next several years. Personally, I have watched the Lightning from their inception and through winning the Stanley Cup. I am confident that our fans in Hampton Roads will continue to see winning hockey at the highest level.''

''We are very excited by the opportunity to partner with such an outstanding organization as Norfolk and such a committed owner in Ken Young,'' Lightning executive vice president and general manager Jay Feaster said. ''Throughout our discussions and negotiations Ken's passion for and commitment to his team, the organization and the wonderful fans of the Admirals has been abundantly evident and we look forward to working with him for a very long time.''

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Early Return for Ranger?

It appears Ranger's recovery is ahead of schedule and he could return as early as Tuesday's game against Carolina. Ranger said he does not want to come back too soon. "It's pretty tough to judge," he said. "If something happened where I aggravated it, it might not be good in the long run or for the rest of the season. That's why you want to come back when it's strong so I can be efficient and not tentative and not worried about hurting it again."

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No Harm Done: TB 2 - FLA 5

The Lightning could have tied Atlanta for the Southeast lead with a win. They also could have nearly dropped out of playoff contention with a loss. Neither happened last night after the Bolts lost their second game in a row, getting drubbed by Florida 5-2. Also losing last night were the Rangers and Carolina, so no ground was gained or lost by the Lightning, who still occupy the 7th seed in the East. But that doesn't make Tuesday's loss to the stinkin' Panthers any easier to swallow.

Lightning killers Nathan Horton and Olli Jokinen each put up 3 points and Eddie the eagle stopped 27 of 29 to hand the Lightning the defeat. "This hurts. This game really hurts right now," Lightning captain Tim Taylor said. "All is not lost. We have to remain positive. You never want a team thinking negative thoughts."

After giving up 3 goals in the 2nd period, Marc Denis was replaced by Johan Holmqvist to start the third. Holmqvist was solid, not surrendering any goals in the frame. On the bright side, the Bolts got goals from their second line and defense, other than Boyle. Brad Richards put the Bolts on the board in the second off a feed from Jason Ward. And down 3-1 in the third, the Lightning got a shorthanded goal from Philip Kuba on a nice slapper from the left point. But that was it. The Panthers added two empty netters at the end to take it to 5-2.

After the game, coach Tortorella said the Lightning would get into the playoffs. "We're taking the long route here, that's for sure, about getting in," Tortorella said. "We are going to get in. We're just going around the block. We're going to get there. It's a guarantee."

The Panthers have won 4 of 7 over the Bolts this year. Next up the Lightning hit the road to face Carolina Friday in Raleigh.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Game Preview: TB vs. FLA

From Yahoo Sports:

With less than two weeks to go in the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning could easily win their division or miss the playoffs entirely.

The Lightning look to regroup following a disheartening loss and resume their push for the postseason when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

With 86 points, Tampa Bay (41-31-4) is only two behind Southeast Division-leading Atlanta. The Lightning are 5-2-0 against the Thrashers this season, and the division title may not be decided until the teams meet in Atlanta for their regular season finale April 7.

Although the Lightning are fighting for their third division title in the franchise's 14-year history, they are hardly playoff locks. They're in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just ahead of the New York Islanders, Carolina and Montreal, who are tied for eighth with 84 points.

Tampa Bay won the first two games of its four-game homestand, but fell 7-2 to Ottawa on Saturday in its most lopsided home loss of the season.

"This game is done," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We're already by it. There's no sense in looking back."

Dan Boyle scored both goals Saturday, while Vincent Lecavalier added two assists to become the first Tampa Bay player to reach 100 points in a season.

Lecavalier has eight goals and eight assists in 11 games this month, and two goals and four assists in six games against the Panthers (31-30-14) this season.

Right wing Martin St. Louis is three points away from becoming the second Lightning player with 100 points. He has four goals and four assists in his last five contests against Florida.

Tampa Bay is 3-2-1 against the Panthers this season, winning both games at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Goaltender Marc Denis started both of the home games against Florida, allowing just three goals in those contests, while Johan Holmqvist is 1-1-1 with a 4.53 GAA in four starts against the Panthers in 2006-07.

Denis, though, allowed five goals on 23 shots in 42 minutes before being pulled Saturday. He's just 1-3-0 with a 3.90 goals-against average in his last five games.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

A Fight to the Finish

Now is not the time to be figuring things out. Now is the time to surge and carry momentum into the playoffs. For the Lightning, that surge needs to begin tomorrow night against Florida, and carry through the rest of the regular season. The Bolts have been anything but en fuego, having only gone 4-6 in their last ten. After the Rangers 5th win in a row on Sunday, the Lightning now find themselves in 7th in the East, only two points up on Carolina, Montreal and the Islanders. Dan Boyle said they needed to win out to get in, and it looks like he may be right. Saturday's loss to Ottawa was not only ugly, it put the Lightning in the position they are in now, fighting for their playoff lives. It seems like a we've been here before. Last season it was a fight to get in, and after doing so, the Bolts were bounced in the first round by Ottawa. This year's team is eerily similar. Inconsistent goaltending and defense, little scoring from second and third liners. A GM who recognized the holes, but did little to plug them going down the stretch. So this is it, 6 games, 4 at home, 12 points available. Every game is a big game, every face off, every shift, every shot. For the Lightning, the playoffs start tomorrow against the Panthers, they control their own fate, win and they're in. Lose and..let's not begin to think about that.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ugly: TB 2 - OTT 7

Dany Heatley registered two goals and an assist as Ottawa pounded Tampa Bay, 7-2.

Dan Boyle had two goals for the Lightning, and Vincent Lecavalier added two assists to become the first Tampa Bay player to reach 100 points in a season. The Lightning hold a slim one-point lead over the Rangers for the sixth seed in the East. Carolina and Montreal, locked in a virtual tie for the eighth spot, are two points behind Tampa Bay.

Lightning goaltender Marc Denis yielded five goals on 23 shots before getting pulled early in the third period. Karri Ramo came in and surrendered three more goals.

"In the second period we had some turnovers that led to penalties and led to goals, and then you're going into the third 4-2 instead of 2-2 and that was the game," Tampa Bay's Brad Richards said. "That changed the whole momentum."

"This game is done," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We're already by it. There's no sense in looking back."

"A loss is a loss," Tampa Bay center Brad Richards said.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Louie, Louie: TB 3 - NJ 1

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Martin St. Louis netted two goals in the final frame to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at St. Pete Times Forum.

Marc Denis made 34 saves for the Lightning, who have won two straight and currently occupy the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier picked up an assist and in so doing notched his 500th career point in the NHL. Martin St. Louis tally put him over the 40 goal plateau.

"Of course there are frustrations," St. Louis said of his drought. "You're not just thinking about scoring a goal. It's in the back of your mind that it's your 40th. It plays in your mind a little bit."

"It's nice to get it over with," St. Louis said. "The most important thing, though, is we won the game."

Zach Parise tallied the lone goal for the slumping Devils, who have lost three straight.

With the game knotted at a goal apiece, the Lightning went in front 2-1 with 10:18 remaining in the third period as St. Louis tallied his 40th goal of the season. Eric Perrin broke up a New Jersey outlet pass in the neutral zone and moved the puck up to St. Louis, who beat Brodeur low on his stick side.

St. Louis' second tally of the game made it a two-goal contest with 6:16 left in the third. From the left corner, Lecavalier centered a pass to a streaking St. Louis in front and he quickly fired the pass through the pads of Brodeur.

With 8:37 left in the first period, Jason Ward gave Tampa Bay the 1-0 edge. From the right boards, Brad Richards unleashed a wrister that Ward tipped past Brodeur from just outside the crease.

"We felt we had 19 days and that was our season," Tortorella explained. "Nineteen days, nine games. We're not looking above us or below us. We're just trying to concentrate on ourselves."

Holmqvist was scheduled to start, but left prior to the game with the flu. Ramo dressed as the back-up. Tampa Bay is 10-3-2 (3 losses, 2 ties) in its last 15 encounters with the Devils..Lecavalier has 49 assists on the season while Richards has 43 helpers.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Game Preview: TB vs. NJ

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams struggling in March meet this evening at St. Pete Times Forum, as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the New Jersey Devils in a potential first-round playoff matchup.

The Devils are in first place in the Atlantic Division with 94 points and also hold the second seed in the Eastern Conference standings. However, New Jersey is just 3-4-2 this month and has allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins to claw within two points of its division lead.

New Jersey's latest setback came in a close game at Toronto on Tuesday, as Mats Sundin assisted on both goals to lift the Maple Leafs to a 2-1 victory at Air Canada Centre.

The Lightning come into tonight with a 4-5-0 mark in March and are still fighting for a playoff berth in the East. Tampa has 84 points and is currently sixth in the conference, but the 11th-place New York Islanders are just five points in back of the Bolts.

Tampa Bay is coming off a win, however, as it defeated the visiting Isles, 4-3, on Tuesday thanks to Filip Kuba's goal just 55 seconds into overtime.

The Lightning are playing the second test of a five-game homestand tonight. They are 19-15-1 as the host club this year and have won seven of their last 10 tests at the Forum.

The Lightning have taken two of three meetings with New Jersey this year and tonight's contest marks the finale of the regular-season series. Tampa Bay is 9-3-2 (3 losses, 2 ties) in its last 14 encounters with the Devils

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

2 Big Points: TB 4 - NYI 3 (OT)

The Lightning came out Tuesday night like a team on a mission and took away a much need win. The Bolts dominated the Islanders in the first period with a relentless forecheck and 17 shots on goal. The period was marked by Islander penalties, 4 for 8 minutes, the first leading to the first Lightning goal. It came at 9:20 off the skate of Eric Perrin on a feed from Jason Ward. The Lightning were unable to capitalize on the other 3 penalties, and went into the locker room up 1-0.

The Bolts came out strong in the second, getting on the board again, this time it was Lecavalier netting his 49th of the year on a shot from the right slot off a nice feed from St. Louis. The Islanders answered almost immediately off a Zednik goal right off the face off in the Lightning zone. The Islanders followed that with a shorthanded goal by Richard Park at 10:13, and finished the period on an even strength goal by Miroslav Satan at 17:24. "That was a tough second period," Holmqvist said. "But we bounced back."

Down one goal in the third, the Lightning again came out strong on the forecheck, and at 4:21 Jason Ward found the back of the net, putting a loose puck by DiPietro to tie it up. The extra session continued the way the third period ended, with the Lightning putting good pressure on the Islanders in the offensive zone. Finally, :55 into overtime, the Lightning got the game winner, a redirection in front of the net by Philip Kuba off a beautiful feed by Eric Perrin. "We lost ourselves for a few minutes after the short-handed goal, but we kept ourselves together," Tortorella said. "We ended up finding a way to win one."

The Lightning sweep the season series with the fishsticks 4-0. The win gives the Lightning 84 points, just 4 behind Atlanta in the Southeast, and 4 up on Carolina. The Lightning continue their homestand Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils.

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Game Preview: TB vs NYI

From Yahoo Sports:

The New York Islanders have been terrible during a three-game losing streak. The Tampa Bay Lightning have only been slightly better in theirs.

The Islanders hope No. 1 goaltender Rick DiPietro is healthy enough to return Tuesday night as they try to record their first win over the Lightning in three years.

With DiPietro's solid play and the trade deadline acquisition of Ryan Smyth, the Islanders seemed poised to move up the Eastern Conference standings. DiPietro, however, suffered a head injury against Montreal on March 13 and missed most of that game and the next two, resulting in New York's first three-game skid since a six-game slide from Dec. 27-Jan. 6.

After allowing 18 goals in their last three games, the Islanders (34-27-10) are hopeful DiPietro can start Tuesday. He took part in his first practice since the injury on Monday and did not rule out the possibility of starting.

"We'll see. It's just too early to tell right now," DiPietro said on the Islanders' official Web site. "I had a good practice and that's a good start. But let's see how the morning skate goes tomorrow and then take it from there. Like I said, we have to be cautious. We have to make a decision based on what's best for me and the team, long-term."

Whoever starts in net for the Islanders will try to help them end a seven-game losing streak to the Lightning (39-30-4). New York has lost all three meetings this season and is 0-5-2 in the series since a 3-0 victory on March 21, 2004.

New York is tied with Toronto and Montreal for ninth in the East, two points behind eighth-place Carolina. Tampa Bay is in sixth place, but only one point ahead of the surging New York Rangers.

After losing their last two games by 3-2 scores, the Lightning had their worst performance of the season Sunday in a 7-1 loss at Washington.

"We didn't let it get away," Tampa Bay forward Brad Richards. "We never really had it tonight. This is going to be forgotten as soon as we walk out of the dressing room. We realized what we did, and we cannot come out like that again."

Both Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis struggled in net for the Lightning. Holmqvist allowed four goals on 24 shots in 48 minutes while Denis gave up three in 11:39.

Vincent Lecavalier, who had his seven-game overall point streak snapped Sunday, has four goals and six assists during a seven-game point streak against the Islanders.

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Ramo Called Up

After the lastest showing by the Lightning's goalie tandem, management has seen fit to call up Karri Ramo from Springfield. However, they claim that Sunday's game is not the reason for the call up, Tortorella said he has wanted to call up Ramo for weeks. Feaster said that with Springfield out of the playoffs it was a good time to get Ramo some "NHL exposure". Ramo isn't expected to start tonight against the Islanders, but may dress and be in the line up as a back up. "I'm ready to play if I have to," he said. "I'm not going to think about it. If I have a chance to play, I just play." "The reports we have on Ramo since the turn of the year, are that he is ready to play at this level now," Feaster said. To the casual onlooker it seems that Feaster and Tortorella are trying to light a fire under the rears of Homer and Denis. What better way to do that than to make you look over your shoulder and realize you are one bad game away from being sent down, or in this case sent home.

Ramo facts: picked 191 in 94 draft. Had 3.13/.909 and was 15-24-1 in Springfield this year. Was Springfield's only All-Star representative this season.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Ice Cold

With their 7-1 drubbing by the Caps Sunday afternoon, the Lightning find themselves on a 3 game losing streak. The Bolts now trail Atlanta by 6 points for the Southeast lead. What is more disconcerting is the fact that the Lightning are now only 3 points ahead of 8th place Carolina, and 4 points from being out of the playoffs. There have been many excuses made for the recent slump, most having to do with a tough road trip to Westen Canada, then back home for 1 game against East leading Buffalo, then back on the road to Washington. But is the road trip to blame? Or could it be that the holes in the Lightning lineup that have been there all year were exposed by the trip? Holes such as a no quality number one goaltender. Holes such as no second line scoring threats. Holes such as sub par defence. To compare we need to look no further than the Bolts Stanley Cup season. That year, aside from the Big 3, the Lightning had a solid #1 in goal in Khabibulin, quality second line scoring in Modin(57points) and Stillman (80 points) , and solid defense. Not to mention veteran experience and leadership in Dave Andreychuk. Compare that to now. In goal the Lightning have a rookie in Holmqvist (2.88/.891) and a veteran in Denis (3.13/.884) with a combined 0, games of playoff experience. A second line consisting of Eric Perrin (30 points) and Ruslan Fedotenko (30 points) that realistically are third liners at best. On defense, the only player with a +/- not in the negatives is Paul Ranger with a +3. Veteran leadership has been put in the hands of Tim Taylor who has posted 5 points this season and gets very little ice time. Feaster did adress defense at the trade deadline adding Shane O'Brien, a good puck moving defenseman who has been a nice addition to the line-up. But that is where it ended. No second line scoring, no veteran net minder with playoff experience. Which leaves us where we are today, in a similar situation to last season, fightning for our playoff lives. Even if the Lightning do make the post season, questions abound as to how far they can realistically go. If it's less than 2 rounds with fewer than 7 home games, ownership will lose money and will impose a team salary cap of $40 millon next year. That could mean the end of the big 3 era in Tampa Bay, and quite possibly the Feaster/Tortorella era as well.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bolts Lose Again: TB 1 - WSH 7

From Yahoo Sports:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The struggling Washington Capitals looked more like a playoff team than the contending Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.

Alexander Semin got a natural hat trick in the second period to help the Capitals beat Tampa Bay 7-1.

Tomas Fleischmann added two goals and two assists for Washington, which won its second straight game. The Capitals hadn't won consecutive games since beating Atlanta and Philadelphia on Jan. 6 and 9 and broke a nine-game losing streak with Friday's win over Toronto.

"When you're slumping, sooner or later you're going to come out of it," Semin said. "The bad luck (has) ended now."

Boyd Gordon also scored for Washington and Alexandre Giroux got his second NHL goal. His first came in Friday's win.

The Capitals are 2-0-1 since goalie Olie Kolzig returned Thursday after missing 13 games with a knee injury. Kolzig made 30 saves against the Lightning.

"I've always said I try to lead by example," Kolzig said. "I don't do anything extra. I just go out there and play."

Filip Kuba scored for Tampa Bay, which is sixth in the Eastern Conference with 82 points.

"We didn't let it get away," Tampa Bay forward Brad Richards said. "We never really had it tonight. This is going to be forgotten as soon as we walk out of the dressing room. We realized what we did, and we cannot come out like that again."

An early Toronto miscue helped the Capitals take the lead Friday, and a Tampa Bay mistake gave Washington another first-period gift Sunday.

Defenseman Dan Boyle lost the puck near the blue line, and Fleischmann then beat goalie Johan Holmqvist near the left circle for a 1-0 lead at 5:31.

Fleischmann made it 2-0 with 6:20 left in the period on a long slap shot. Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella pulled Holmqvist for Marc Denis a few minutes later.

"Seems to me like everything was going my way tonight," Fleischmann said. "I try to take advantage of that. I want to prove I can play on this level."

Fleischmann was selected in the first round of the 2004 draft. He's been called up from Hershey four times this season and had just two assists in 14 NHL games before this year. He was Hershey's second-leading scorer but now has five points in 20 games with Washington this year -- all in the last two contests.

"That's what we were waiting for," Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. "(It was) certainly a good night for him. He's smart as a whip."

Semin scored on the first three Washington shots of the second period.

He scored a power-play goal at 1:14, converted a backhander at 6:45 and scored on a long wrist shot 8:18 into the period for a 5-0 lead. The fans then littered the ice with hats, and Tortorella put Holmqvist back in, but the damage was done.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Opportunity Lost: TB 2 - BUF 3

Just as the door opened for the Bolts with Atlanta's loss in Philly, it was slammed shut Friday night by the Sabres. Buffalo came into Tampa and handed the Lightning their 2nd loss in as many games, with a 3-2 victory at the Forum Friday night. The Bolts got on the board first when Vinny Lecavalier ripped a Martin St. Louis feed past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller at 2:11 in the first. Buffalo answered in dramatic fashion, ripping off 3 in a row, two by Jason Pominville (7:29 & 10:24) and one by Derek Roy (8:05), to close out the first period up 3-1. Neither team tallied a goal in the second period. The Lightning's second goal came at 4:38 in the third period on pass by Lecavalier that was directed into the Sabre net by goalie Ryan Miller. The two goals increased Vinny's season total to a league leading 48. The loss was made that much worse by the Thrashers getting an OT win against the Rangers up in Atlanta. The Lightning now trail Atlanta by 4 points in the Southeast with one game in hand. The Bolts will now head to the Nation's capitol to face Ovechkin and the Caps Sunday at 1:00 pm EST.

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Door is Open for Lightning

Last night's loss by Atlanta at the hands of the Flyers has opened the door for the Lightning to retake the Southeast lead. A Lightning win tonight against Buffalo, coupled with an Atlanta loss to the Rangers, would give the Bolts sole possession of 1st in the division with a game in hand. The Lightning will play 8 of it's final 11 games at home, begining with tonight's matchup with Buffalo. "This is the start of it," captain Tim Taylor said. "This is when teams really start to gear up. We have to make a statement now. This is our season."
"No matter what we've done in the past, how much we've climbed back into first place, made up 16 points, it doesn't matter. It's about now, and that's very exciting. Other than the playoffs, this is the next best time of the year to play hockey."
The Bolts come into tonight's matchup having just completed a 6 game road trip where they went 3-3. The Sabres played Florida last night in Sunrise, beating the Panthers 5-3. Buffalo has cooled off as of late, going just 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. The Lightning have the same record in their last 10. Tonight's game will face off at 8:00 EST.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

It's Tournament Time!

It's time for March Madness, but I'm not talking basketball. The NCAA college hockey tournament kicks off next week. For those of you who made it to the Lightning College Hockey Classic a few months ago at the forum, you saw the top team in the nation Notre Dame power through the pack and win the innaugural tournament. But the team that seemed out of place, a group from Alabama-Huntsville, has made waves recently winning their conference tournament, coming from the last place seed and trailing in every game, and getting into the big dance. The Chargers will likely face Notre Dame in the 1st round, the one team they didn't get to play here in Tampa. Basketball is great, but college hockey at tournament time is AWSOME BABY!

NCAA Top 10:
1. Notre Dame 29-6-3
2. Minnesota 28-9-3
3. New Hampshire 25-9-2
4. St. Cloud State University 22-8-7
5. Clarkson University 23-8-5
6. Boston College 24-11-1
7. North Dakota 21-12-5
8. Boston University 20-8-9
9. Michigan 25-12-1
10. St. Lawrence 22-12-2

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Springfield Out, Norfolk In?

After a three years with the Springfield Falcons, the Lightning may be ready to find a new minor-league affiliate.

Reports have Springfield and Tampa Bay mutually terminating their affiliate agreement two years early. The two team agreed to their contract last season, but there is an opt-out clause that states if one wants to end the relationship, then there must be a replacement for both sides.

On the Lightning side of the deal, the Bolts would move their farm team to Norfolk, Va., with Edmonton coming in to Springfield. Norfolk is currently the minor-league affiliate of the Blackhawks and is in the final year of their contract with the team. Edmonton currently does not have a minor-league affiliate.

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DiMaio May Retire

From the SP Times:
Rob DiMaio's magic number is 120.
That is the maximum heart rate the wing said he can attain during exercise before, "I feel like I'm in a wind tunnel."
DiMaio, out the entire season because of a concussion, said for the first time Tuesday that he is "leaning" toward retirement, though he will wait for summer before deciding.
That DiMaio, 39, hinted at retirement is not a shock. He had hernia surgery six weeks ago and, as he said, "I'm running out of time. I'm not getting any younger."
In his 18th season, and fifth in two stints with Tampa Bay, DiMaio was hurt during a preseason game in Montreal when his head hit the side glass after a questionable from-behind check by Guillaume Latendresse.
He has been recuperating at home in Toronto.
"He has a beautiful family," coach John Tortorella said. "I want to see him concentrate on that."

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bolts Drop Final Game of Road Trip: TB 2 - TOR 3

The Lightning finished their Canadian swing on a bit of a low note Tuesday evening losing to the Maple Leafs 3-2 at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. The Lightning got on the board at 2:24 in first on a power play goal from Brad Richards, a hard slapshot from the left point. It was his 24th of the season. The Leafs answered at 11:34 in the first on a goal from Chad Kilger. The Lightning were back in front at 4:36 in the 2nd shorthanded as Dan Boyle drove to the net and fired a wrister past Raycroft, the shorty was his 16th of the year. The Leafs answered late in the second, tying it on a nifty goal by Mats Sundin. "All four lines played really good tonight," Sundin said. "Great support from the fans; the building was electric. Except for the first five or 10 minutes, we looked like the better team out there." The game winning goal came in the third off the stick of Nik Antropov who was fed a pass from behind the net by Sundin. Antropov directed the puck off his backhand just past the left toe of Marc Denis to give the Leafs the game winning goal. "We let them forecheck us," Richards said. "They kept us deep in our zone. They played like a desperate hockey team. We couldn't stop them." The loss, the Bolts fourth in the last seven games, leaves them two points behind Atlanta for the Southeast lead. The Lightning will now head home to play the Eastern Conference leading Buffalo Sabres Friday night.

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Game Preview: TB vs. TOR

The Lightning finish their 6 game road trip tonight in Toronto. The Bolts are coming off back to back wins in Edmonton and Calgary, and look to reclaim the top spot in the Southeast. Atlanta's win over the Capitals last night gave them sole posession of first place in the Southeast with 84 points. Toronto on the other hand is fightning for their playoff life. The Leafs are sitting in the 10th spot in the East and are coming off an overtime win in Ottawa. They are one point out of the the tightly contested eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Leafs, who are wrapping up a brief two-game homestand tonight, are just 14-15-5 as the host club this year. Toronto has won all three encounters with the Lightning this season and four in a row overall for the series. The Lightning have also been defeated in three straight and eight of their last nine trips to Air Canada Centre. The Lightning will return home on Friday to face the Buffalo Sabres.

Projected Lines:
Tampa Bay:
Perrin - Lecavalier - St. Louis
Prospal - Richards - Fedotenko
Ward - Craig - Tarnasky
Taylor - Jones - Roy
Starting Goaltender: Denis

Ponikarovsky - Sundin - Antropov
Steen - Wellwood - Tucker
Kilger - Perreault - O'Neill
Battaglia - Stajan - Devereaux
McCabe - Colaiacovo
Gill - White
Wozniewski - Kubina
Goaltender: Raycroft

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Put the Vinny Trade Rumors to Bed

Here's a snippet from an article by Kevin Allen in USA Today about Vinny:

But when Feaster replaced Rick Dudley, his first order was that Tortorella and Lecavalier should learn to peacefully co-exist because neither was going anywhere.

"When I became GM, I didn't think it was the right thing to do to trade Vinny. I said I won't be the guy who traded Vinny Lecavalier — that won't be my legacy," Feaster said. "Since then, he has been MVP of the World Cup of Hockey, helped us win a Stanley Cup and win two division titles and chasing a third, and he's on the verge of being the leading goal scorer of the National Hockey League. Why would I consider it now?"

The message is clear: The Lightning aren't going to trade Lecavalier this summer.

Speculation that the Lightning might trade Lecavalier is born out of the reality that the Lightning have $21 million tied up in three players — along with Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards — and balancing the team's budget has become a tightrope dance.

"I honestly believe that Vinny may be the best two-way player in the game today, and that doesn't take away anything from what Sid has accomplished. He's a great player, too," Feaster said. "But when I look at the MVP race, I think it's about more than points. That's where I think Vinny has an edge. Vinny is one of our regular penalty killers, and he's up among the leaders in shorthanded goals and points. And he has become a very, very good two-way player."

When Lecavalier and St. Louis are killing penalties together, it's hard to remember who has the man advantage.

Feaster is miffed, working up to angry, over the Lecavalier speculation because there is no basis for fact.

"It's tiring," he said. "I'm tired of answering the question. Sometimes I think the purpose of these rumors is to disrupt and distract from what we have going here."

When asked about the rumors, Feaster has said, "I won't hang up on GMs if they call, but we aren't interested in moving him."

So there it is from the horse's mouth. Vinny isn't going anywhere, so everyone can stop with all the rumors, got it Ek? (See post: Rumors, Rumors, Rumors) Expect to see Vinny wearing the big "C" on his chest next season in Tampa Bay!

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Ranger Update

Left the March 7th game in Edmonton with a knee injury. Was on crutches and wearing a brace to stabilize his left knee after the game. An MRI was done in Calgary. He has slight tear of the right MCL. No surgery will be necessary, he has already begun rehab. He will miss the next four to six weeks.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bolts Win in OT: TB 3 - CGY 2

From TSN:

Dan Boyle scored the game-winner with 2:01 left in overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames at Pengrowth Saddledome.

In the extra frame, Tampa was skating a 5-on-3 advantage after Roman Hamrlik got called for a double-minor on a high stick and Daymond Langkow was called for hooking.

Vincent Lecavalier had the puck at the right side of the net and flicked it across the goalmouth to Boyle, who tapped it in for the win.

"We feed off of opportunities," said Boyle. "We kept it pretty simple. We didn't get that many chances but capitalized on the ones that were presented to us."

Lecavalier had a goal and an assist and Nick Tarnasky also had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, who have won their last two games.

Marc Denis made 25 saves for Tampa Bay, which moved into first place in the Southeast Division with 82 points, tied with Atlanta but with three more wins than the Thrashers.

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Back on Track: TB 3 - EDM 1

In the second of back to back games, the Lightning did what they had to do, they got the win. The Lightning were led by Vinny Lecavalier's 2 goals, his league leading 44th and 45th, and stellar goal tending by Marc Denis. Vinny Prospal got the Bolts on the board at 10:49 in the second with a power play goal off a feed from Brad Richards. Lecavalier followed that even strength at 13:30 in the second, golfing in a pass from Vinny Prospal. Lecavalier's second goal was an empty netter from St. Louis. The win moves the Lighting back into a tie with idle Atlanta for the #1 position in the Southeast. Next up for the Lightning is a re-match of their '04 cup final opponent Calgary on Saturday.

Notes: Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger left the game with a knee injury after a collision in front of the Lighting net, and did not return. Kuba, Wanvig, Stewart and Richrdson were the Lightning scratches.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Game Preview: vs. Edmonton

Busy day, here's a game preview courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

The last two games have provided further proof that the Tampa Bay Lightning are still a team searching for a No. 1 goaltender.

The Lightning hope to avoid their first three-game losing streak in almost three months Wednesday night when they continue a six-game road trip against the Edmonton Oilers.

Tampa Bay hasn't lost three straight since a four-game skid from Dec. 9-16, but is just 3-7-0 all-time in Edmonton.

Currently 13 points out of a playoff spot with 16 games remaining, the Oilers (30-30-6) likely will miss the playoffs for second time in three seasons.

It wasn't enough to avoid their fourth straight loss, but Edmonton did end the third-longest scoring drought in team history Saturday in a 4-2 loss to rival Calgary.

The Lightning have two straight 3-2 wins over the Oilers after losing the previous six meetings.

Go Bolts!

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Vinny Sets Record in Loss: TB1 - VAN 5

Vinny Lecavalier set a Lightning team record for goals in a season when he netted his 43rd of the year, passing Brian Bradley, but the Bolts were unable to get to Luongo and the Canucks, and lost for the second straight game. The Lightning only tallied 2 shots on goal in the 1st period and only 17 for the game. The Bolts have now been outscored 11-3 in their last two games. The Canucks were effective full strength where they scored three times, on the power play where they got one, and even short handed, where they forced Holmqvist to mishandle the puck, and scored another. "In the second (period), we kind of got sloppy and ended up giving up the early goal in the third," said St. Louis. "That was tough. Then, five-on-three (for 1:01 in the third), we didn't get it done. We could have made it 2-2 and they get that fourth goal on the power play. Seventeen shots against Luongo is just not good enough."

The loss dropped the Lightning to second in the Southeast Division and 6th in the Eastern Conference as Atlanta won earlier in the evening defeating Florida 4-2. The Bolts will have to have a short memory as they hit the ice for the second night in a row in Edmonton Wednesday night to face the Oilers.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Rumors, Rumors, Rumors...

From Eklund at HockeyBuzz:

"An interesting rumor floating around tonight. Word is that the Edmonton Oilers may be preparing a major trade offer for Vinny LeCavalier this coming summer should the Bolts not be able to keep the big three. Word is that the Lightning will be hard-pressed to keep the big three unless they go two rounds in this year's post season. One source told me that the Ryan Smyth negotiations were partly hampered by the team's long-range plan to go after #4.

We shall see..."

Come on Ek, give me a break, I expect more from you...

Uhh attention all Canadians, you need to face the facts, Eh: The Lightning will NOT trade Vinny. Rick Dudley is no longer the GM in Tampa. If anyone goes it will be St. Louis. Age, money etc. Vinny is having an MVP year, and if anything, will put the "C" on his chest next year. Also "Rumored" is Montreal will sell the farm to get Vinny. Let's face it, most of the crappy bottom dwelling teams would sell everything for Vinny. No one's getting him.

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Monday, March 5, 2007

Northern Exposure: Canadian Road Trip Crucial

As the playoff race heats up, the Lightning find themselves once again tied with Atlanta for the Southeast Division lead. The Bolts will now travel to western Canada to kick off three games against Northwest Division teams. The Lightning will face off against the Northwest Division leading Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday in a reunion with their old Southeast Division foe Roberto Luongo. This trip will define the rest of the regular season and either expose the team's weaknesses or solidify its position in the division and conference. Tortorella is looking for the guys who will step up for this team going into the playoffs. Guys like Paul Ranger, Doug Janik & Andre Roy will be competing for their playoff roster spots with the new aquisitions Shane O'Brien, Jason Ward and Karl Stewart. This stretch along with the rest of the regular seasons games will also determine whether or not Lightning GM Jay Feaster did enough before the trade deadline to fill the teams holes. The blue line seems to be better with the aquisition of O'Brien, but he is an untested rookie. Gone is the scoring of guys like Modin and Stillman, in their place is Perrin, Fedotenko and Craig, guys who so far have not filled that scoring void. Gone is the Bulin Wall, replaced by Holmqvst and Denis, both with no playoff experience. To say the next four games are crucial is an understatement. The Lightning must step up and claim the 8 points that are available, they must establish their identity and come toghether as a cohesive unit, and they must get on a roll heading into the playoffs. I don't want to think what another 1st round exit would bring.

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Feaster #2 on Forbes' Top GM List

Lightning GM Jay Feaster has been rankend in the #2 position on the top GM's in professional sports list by Forbes Magazine.

"General managers were graded on two things: performance vs. the performance of their predecessor, and payroll relative to the league median when compared to their predecessor. Because winning is more important than payroll, double-weighted winning percentage to penalize a GM who cut costs but also hurt his team's winning percentage.

Using that metric, McHale is No. 1, Jay Feaster of the Tampa Bay Lightning is No. 2, Billy King of the Philadelphia 76ers is No. 3, A.J. Smith of the San Diego Chargers is No. 4 and Lou Lamoriello of the New Jersey Devils is No. 5."

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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Bolts Don't Show Up: TB 2 - FLA 6

In a game the Lightning are expected, and need to win, they failed to show up, and were pounded by the Panthers 6-2. The Bolts gave up two goals in the first six minutes of the game, the first by Nathan Horton, and the second just :22 later by Olli Jokinen. "I've never seen that in my 28 years," Holmqvist said. "I've never played a game and not stopped a shot." Tortorella pulled Holmqvst in favor of Marc Denis, who was solid until late. "I thought Marc came in to make some good saves to keep us around," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "I think the most important goal was that third goal." The Lightning seemed to settle down in the Second, and were able to get back in the game on a goal by Nolan Pratt, his first of the year. From there, however, it was down hill. The Lightning gave up another 4 goals, getting out hustled, out hit and out shot. Vinny Prospal netted the Bolts second goal late in the third period. The loss left the Lightning only 2 points up on Atlanta heading into their Canadian swing. The Bolts next 4 games will take them to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto.

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Friday, March 2, 2007

Tarnasky Nets Winner: TB 5 - WSH 4 (SO)

In the 10th round of the shoutout, John Tortorella called Nick Tarnasky's number, and the Rocky Mountain House, Alberta native was able to do what 9 of his teammates couldn't...beat Brent Johnson. The shootout goal was Tarnasky's first ever as a pro. ""Not just in the NHL - my first ever as a pro," Tarnasky said. "All I'm thinking is 'I've got one move, I'm going to try it and I hope it works." The game was back and forth, with the top two lines doing the scoring for the Lightning who faced a 3-1 deficit early. Down 3-1, early in the second, the Bolts got within one on a goal from Fedotenko. Down 3-2 in the third, the Lightning tied it on a shorty by Lecavalier, his 42nd of the year. The Lightning took the lead on a goal by Marty St. Louis, but it was short lived as the Refs gave Washington a 5-3 power play late in the third they used to tie the game and send it to overtime. Lighting broadcaster Bobby "The Chief" Taylor wondered out loud if the Referee calling the game had "ever ref'd a sport in his life." In overtime, Holmqvst came up big shutting out 10 of the Caps, and Nick Tarnasky got the winner, his first ever shootout chance and goal. The win moved the Lightning 4 points up on idle Atlanta for the Southeast lead.

New aquisition Shane O'Brien recorded his first point as a member of the Lightning, an assist. He also had 2 penalty minutes.
Stewart played 7:57. Ward played 5:10 neither recorded a point.

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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Game Preview: TB vs. WSH

After going 1-1-1 in their last 3 at home, the Lightning head out for six on the road as they try to stay in first place in the Southeast. The Lightning look to bounce back from an OT loss to Dallas as they visit the Washington Capitals in the opener of the road trip. The Lightning have gone 17-4-2 since Jan. 7 to take a two-point lead over Atlanta in the Southeast. The Bolts have won nine of its last 11 on the road. The Lightning have won four of the five meetings with the Caps this year including both games in Washington.

New aquisitions Jason Ward and Karl Stewart are in the line-up for tonight. Scratches are TBA.

DiMaio and Karlsson are on IR

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Would You Pay $30 to Park

From the SP Times:

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio wants to increase parking fees in city garages and lots from a maximum of $12 to $30 for some events at the arena. Much of that extra money will go to the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, which makes its home at the Times Forum.

“This does provide the potential for more revenue going to the Lightning,” said Darrell Smith, Iorio’s chief of staff.

The current rates at city parking facilities, in place since 2003, allow a range of $5 to $12 for Times Forum events. The new rates would allow $2 to $30, though details were not immediately available Tuesday on which events would carry the biggest price tag.

Would you pay $30 to park at a game on top of the ticket price, food & beverage? I know the Lightning are supposedly hemoraging money, but $30 to park is a bit much. What's your take?

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