Martin St. Louis remains go-to guy in Tampa Bay, in good times and bad

It’s dangerous to put too much stock in a single contest during an 82-game regular season, but we should at least get some idea regarding whether or not the Tampa Bay Lightning are legit against the Washington Capitals tonight. Whichever team wins this evening’s game will hold the lead in the Southeast Division, so yes, it’s a pretty big one.

Many will marvel at how far Tampa Bay has come and will attribute the change to shrewd moves by general manager Steve Yzerman, great management by Guy Boucher and the ascension of Steven Stamkos.

Yet as players and coaches came and went while Vincent Lecavalier drifted in and out of hockey relevance, one player consistently produced no matter what: Martin St. Louis. Lecavalier might wear the “C” for the Bolts, but it might be most accurate to call St. Louis the team’s other (or perhaps “true”) captain.

Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times discusses the fact that St. Louis provides a speedy style that defies his age and amazes his teammates (and coach).

These are good times for St. Louis, 35 years old going on 25.

The franchise has turned around, and the games matter again, and life at home is terrific. After three years when the Lightning went nowhere, St. Louis is an essential player on a team with possibilities.

He can still go, you know. There is a smattering of gray in his hair, but St. Louis’ skates still have gears that most players’ do not. He has 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) in 43 games, which is another way of saying his stick still has stories to tell.

“You don’t want to just play in this league,” St. Louis said quietly. “You want to play and be a factor. I’m trying to do that every day. Every day you have to prove yourself. Next year it will be the same. When you’re young, you have to prove you can play. When you’re old, you have to prove you can still play.”

So we’ll see how good this Lightning team is, but even if he doesn’t normally generate the headlines (good or bad), chances are that St. Louis will come to play.

Campbell’s perfect snipe sinks Wings in OT

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Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.

With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.

It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.

Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.

The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.

Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.

They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.

This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.

With Jonathan Bernier sputtering, we’ll meet Garret Sparks

Garett Sparks
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You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.

With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.

Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).

In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:

Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.

Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.

Video: Dylan Larkin adds to his rookie goals lead

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So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.

The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.

No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.

He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)