Deck shuffle; Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens preview
WHERE: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec
WHEN: 7 PM EST | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Habs Eyes on the Prize, All Habs
Friday was a day of hardships, change, renewals and resumptions for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The following is a summary attempt of the news: Forward Adam Hall will be out for some time with his injury; JT Wyman will be back in action sometime soon - but not tonight - after his inujury on Thursday in Ottawa; Ryan Malone may be back in the lineup tonight. Best wishes to Blair Jones and his future with the Calgary Flames (more on that in a moment), while the Lightning welcome Brendan Mikkelson to the club. Mikkelson will be making his season debut either tonight or next week at Times Palace. Meanwhile, the myth / legend of Evan Oberg has dissipated and headed back to the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL... Meanwhile, Ads LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie (I'm calling him P.C. Labrie for short from now on), after signing an NHL contract just last week, has been called up by the Lightning. If he plays tonight, it will be his NHL debut.
Last, but certainly not least, we welcome Brett Connolly back to the Bolts. The 19 year old won a bronze medal with Team Canada during the 2012 World Junior Championships in Alberta.
While there's a need for bodies in the injury-riddled lineup, I'm skeptical if Mikkelson will play tonight, or Connolly for that matter. Brett just needs to adjust back to the NHL game, that's not a huge thing. On the other hand, Mikkelson (who had been playing for the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL this season sus far) needs to make the bigger adjustment to the 1-3-1 defensive scheme. Unlike Labrie (who has played in the style with the Admirals), Mikkelson is coming in with no knowledge / experience with Guy Boucher's system. That's not saying he can't adapt, it's more like an acknowledgement that new TB defenders don't automatically understand their assignments in the system. If you need evidence of this, just think back to all the scorn you had for Matt Gilroy at the beginning of the season. Matt needed to sit and watch the game from the press box to better understand his assignments. Working in a pairing with Eric Brewer for a few games didn't hurt, either.
Mikkelson's acquisition does give the Lightning a shot in the arm, but he's no panacea (...unless Brendan wants to prove me wrong. In that case, by all means sir, prove me wrong and turn this team around). That being said, when I saw Blair Jones was the player moved, and Calgary was involved in the overall transaction, my first thought was wondering what took Flames GM Jay Feaster so long.
There have been several players that the Lightning have, and have had, in the system, that I'm surprised Feaster had not acquired or signed; forwards such as Jones, Paul Sczcechura, and defenseman Vladmir Mihalik. All with some form of NHL experience, yes, all had been Tampa Bay Lightning property for a time (Chewie s now elsewhere, as is Mihalik). But most importantly, these were Jay Feaster's guy.s. These were Feaster's former draft picks and signings who were and are on the cusp of playing in the NHL. You'd think that Jay, for the sake of ego and for the sake of a floundering Flames team, would think to restock his franchise with his own players.
(Mihalik is playing in the KHL this season, Szczechura is playing in teh Buffalo Sares organization)
Jones is one of Feaster's own - the scrappy, hard-nosed, WHL-prototypical forward. But for the skill he has shown in the AHL (he's the Norfolk Admirals all-time leading scorer), he's been marginal in the NHL, as have most other Feaster draftees that have made it to the NHL (sans certain forwards who wear the #91 for the Tampa Bay Lightning at this time).
Jay was never big on player development while GM with the Lightning, so perhaps that is why he hasn't taken the time to bring in "his guys" who were and are development projects. In the end, though, seeing Jay make a deal for one of his former picks, one of his on-the-cusp guys with the Tampa Bay Lightning just isn't surprising. It was expected, and was (perhaps) overdue.
Dwayne Roloson makes his second consecutive start for the Lightning tonight in Montreal. Ryan Maloen will play (per the Tampa Bay Lightning Twitter account) as will Brett Connolly in this last of a three-game road swing through Canada.
Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
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