It may be temporary, but Steven Stamkos will start the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning as one of their alternate captains. With Mattias Ohlund out with knee problems, the 21-year-old will join Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis as members of the Lightning leadership. Not too bad for a team that has veterans like Dominic Moore, Ryan Malone, and Eric Brewer on the roster. Then again—ever since he was drafted first overall in 2008, Stamkos was supposed to be a leader as well as an elite goal scorer. And so it begins…
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher explained the rationale for selecting the young star:
“He’s earned it. We saw him become a man during the playoffs.”
There’s no question that Stamkos’ play on the ice has already made him a de facto leader on the team and one of the faces of the franchise. There’s something about averaging 48 goals over the last two seasons that has the tendency to earn the respect of teammates and opponents alike. But as Boucher mentioned, over the regular season and during the playoffs last year, Stamkos took his game to a new level—which had nothing to do with goal scoring.
Many people will remember Stamkos returning to the ice in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals after taking a shot directly to the face. He returned to the ice only minutes later after the training staff affixed a cage to his helmet and shoved cotton up his nose to temporarily stop the bleeding. He had stepped up his game over the course of the playoffs—but that one single visual of an injured Stamkos returning to the ice demonstrated that winning with his team was the number one goal.
He’ll give up the “A” when Ohlund returns from his knee injury, but don’t expect him to give up the leadership role on the team. It’s only a matter of time before Stamkos receives the alternate captain role on a permanent basis—and even more before his career is over. Obviously his goal scoring makes him an elite sniper around the league. But his offseason training and leadership qualities as a young player truly make him a guy the Lightning can build around for the future. For the first few games this season—the future is now.
The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings prefer to lean on workhorse goalies Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick respectively, but Sunday presents a change of pace.
In the Kings’ case, Jhonas Enroth is playing in part because of (what Los Angeles hopes is) a minor injury to Quick.
It’s true that the under-sized goalie sports a mediocre 4-4-1 record, but he’s given the Kings legitimate chances to win games considering his impressive (especially for a backup) save percentage of .925. Perhaps he can earn a few more reps if he plays well in what may be a tight game?
Speaking of earning more reps, Keith Kinkaid must continue to work to prove that he’s able to make the jump from AHL goalie to at least an NHL backup. The Kings aren’t likely to make it easy for him, either.
Avalanche at Sabres: Semyon Varlamov vs. Robin Lehner
Bruins at Red Wings: Possibly Tuukka Rask vs. Petr Mrazek
Blues at Lightning: Best guess – Brian Elliott vs. Ben Bishop
Flyers at Rangers: Steve Mason vs. (possibly) Henrik Lundqvist
Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.
Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.
(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)
Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …
It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.
Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.
A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.
Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.
(Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)
Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.
The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.
Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.
Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?
“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.
The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).
The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.
Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:
The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”
Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.