OK, two games, one minor league promotion, two flights, a load of subway travel and half a week and I am back.
The interesting story that came up the day I left was John Tortorella's declaration the Lightning were through with planning and playing under the new rules - meaning the red-line was to be employed during practice and in game situations. The Lightning had looked like a disorganized mess even in their two early victories and one culprit was the mad-dash-two-line-pass attempts.
One of the other culprits plaguing the team is the power play. Torts was thinking about adding a 3rd power play unit:
"I've toyed in my mind with having three power-play units," Tortorella said.
The main reason is to keep the players not normally involved on the power play in the game. The last thing Tortorella wants is six or seven players thrust into the heat of a game after sitting for long stretches.
"I've (also) toyed in my mind having three power-play units because simply the other guys aren't working," Tortorella said. "Eventually we'll have to look at three units not just (because) of the amount of time you're on (the power play), but it's a good push for the other two units. If they're not doing their job, get the other unit in there."
When I originally read that earlier this week I thought it was so simple and yet so necessary right now in the NHL... I thought it was genius.
In both cases, it seems to have helped. I didn't get to witness the 4-3 loss to Buffalo but seeing it was a Shoot-out loss, I thought it was a clear sign the team was responding. The Tribune spun the loss -- a franchise first as it was the Lightning's first shootout of the season and first shootout loss -- in an attempt to keep people from getting too put-off by the end result. Last night's game was another example as the Lightning beat Pittsburg 3-1 with Vinny, Vaclav and Ruslan (Oh, my!) dominating the game.
Meanwhile, the Lightning have seven defensemen again as Paul Ranger has been promoted as a precautionary measure during the road trip. With Daryl Sydor hurting and Timo Hebling struggling the rookie struggles on the blue line, Ranger adds immediate depth to a defensive core that lacks it - even if he isn't the veteran force that Jay Feaster or John Tortorella would prefer.
And while I can I might as well give props to my hotel out in LA -- the Ramada Inn on Vermont is a great place to stay in LA... Close to the Red Line and not far away (with thanks to that train) from both Downtown and Hollywood.