Lightning Lines Taking Shape?

Usually fans can get a good idea what the Lightning are thinking in terms of line combos by how players are arranged to start training camp scrimmages. Looking a few entries into Erik Erlendsson’s blog, he lists the frontrunners for the third and fourth lines. According to Erlendsson, of the [i]Tampa Tribune[/i], the Lightning have placed Ryan Craig with Andreas Karlsson, which is of no surprise, because we've heard all off-season that they want the third line to be a scoring line and for Karlsson to help make that happen. Speculation centers around who will be the other winger on that line, with candidates including Nick Tarnasky, Rob DiMaio, Norm Milley, Darren Reid, Nikita Alexeev, Eric Perrin, and a few others. The Lightning are giving a prime opportunity to Alexeev here, it seems, as a line of Craig-Karlsson-Alexeev is set to compete in scrimmages. Reid is scheduled to play on this team in scrimmages. The other line battle fans have been mulling over is the more physical and/or offensively capable fourth line. Candidates to play with Tim Taylor here include tough-guy Mitch Fritz, Tarnasky, DiMaio, Reid, Milley, and possibly Eric Perrin should they choose to go the offense-first route with the fourth, which would also give them a ready substitute for the upper lines should the Lightning need a boost during a game. The Lightning offers only a slight hint here as they have Taylor centering a line with and Milley and DiMaio to start. However, Tarnasky and Perrin are also scheduled to play on this scrimmage team, so that line could change one shift into the first day if need-be. Milley was a valuable player last year for Springfield and may be better served with the Falcons, but in his short stint with the Lightning last season he found his way into coach John Tortorella's good graces with his work ethic and attitude. As for who will play with Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, Dimitry Afanasenkov has first dibs, as expected. Perhaps one of the infamous camp trades could land Craig on that line for a look-see, or a darkhorse candidate such as Perrin or Marek Kvapil. Considering both St. Louis and Richards talked up Afanasenkov to Tampa General Manager Jay Feaster during post-season interviews last spring, it's no surprise "Affy" is getting the first look at that spot. He played with the two Olympians during the Senators series last year after Frederik Modin was demoted. Therefore, if these pre-scrimmage teams are any indication of what we could see on opening day, lines would look like: Afanasenkov-Richards-St. Louis Prospal-Lecavalier-Fedotenko Craig-Karlsson-Alexeev Milley-Taylor-DiMaio

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Opinion

They are certainly taking Project Alexeev very seriously. For a guy that left the organization for a year to return home to Russia, they are certainly giving him a prime opportunity to make a name for himself. If he earns that spot, great. In my opinion, though, I'd rather see Milley helping the young pups in Springfield than playing 6-10 minutes on the fourth line. Give that spot to Tarnasky. Or... as Pete has mentioned, carry Delmore as a seventh defenseman/PP specialist and use a sub in with Taylor and DiMaio/whomever on the fourth line. It should be interesting to see how this all plays out. There is usually one camp surprise each year and that player could end up throwing all these pre-camp plans out of whack.

Milley Can't Skate

Period. The guy doesn't skate well enough to play in the NHL. If you're going to take a guy who skates like Milley, I'd rather have Reid on the team because Darren brings that pest factor to the table.

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