While they did lose Sean Bergenheim and some support players, there are still plenty of reasons to be positive about the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team’s new vision can be seen in the form of their new uniforms, their promising first run of results under new management and a bright future fueled by Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and other talented players.
GM Steve Yzerman just hopes that this solid vision of the future doesn’t get impaired by a wayward puck to the face. Months ago, Yzerman issued a challenge to players to wear visors next season, a challenge that makes Raw Charge’s John Fontana curious now that training camp is right around the corner.
As Fontana mentions, the team has some direct anecdotes about the importance of wearing a face shield. An errant puck struck Yzerman in the eye during the 2004 playoffs and ultimately ended his career. The Lightning team itself dealt with near-disaster when Stamkos’ nose was damaged by a Johnny Boychuk slap shot. While his visor didn’t keep him from getting hurt at all, one can only imagine the damage that would have come from that incident if he wasn’t wearing one. Instead of scary consequences, Stamkos barely missed any shifts during that Game 7 match against the Boston Bruins.
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Ryan Malone is among the players who don’t want to deal with the negative aspects of wearing a visor. It’s reasonable for some to feel like a worried mother when a son goes out in cold weather without a jacket when it comes to visors, but it’s ultimately a player’s choice to make.
Malone is currently recovering from shoulder surgery, which is a situation the Lightning are monitoring closely. The latest update from Damian Cristodero reveals that Malone will probably miss all but two preseason games (he’s reportedly expected to appear in their final two contests on September 29 and October 1), yet he should be able to start the 2011-12 season.
Aside from polarizing winger Steve Downie, the Lightning’s top six forwards are almost exclusively finesse players. Having Malone in the mix (often on one of those top two lines) gives Tampa Bay a presence in front of the net and in the dirtier areas of the ice. Judging from his shoulder issues, that style of play takes its toll, but the Lightning obviously hope to have him back for the beginning of next season. So far, it sounds like that is a strong possibility – just don’t ask him to put on a visor.
(H/T to Rotoworld.)
By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.
You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.
Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.
Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.
Here’s the Jurco goal:
Patrick Kane‘s 2-1 goal might have hurt the most, actually, as it quickly dissolved a tying tally by Ondrej Palat:
Update: The Lightning decided to put Vasilevskiy back in net to begin the second period. Interesting.
The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.
The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.
Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:
The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.
Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.
The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.
(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)
While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.
Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?
Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.
He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.
(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)
The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.
While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.
With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.
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