Opening night wins are a good thing.
New Jersey 9:06, Brian Gionta 1 (power play) (Zach Parise, Travis Zajac)
Tampa Bay lays an egg in what was supposed to be their tune up for the regular season.
Marc Denis allowed 4 goals on 14 shots for the loss before giving way to Johan Holmqvist who allowed 1 goal on 18 shots.
No matter how you slice this, tonight's result was disappointing considering this supposedly was the lineup John Tortorella wants in place on opening night. The poor result was further compounded by more injury issues as forward Nick Tarnasky had his nose broken in a fight and defenseman Paul Ranger left the game with a minor shoulder injury.
Right now the Lightning have nothing resembling continuity in their forward lines or their defensive pairings due to injuries resulting in precious few opportunities for units to work together at game speed to get their timing. As a consequence the Lightning were outshot 32-23 tonight and, frankly, there are no quick fixes. The Lightning will have to try to get healthy again and grind it out over the first few weeks of the season and try to keep their heads above water while the rust and the growing pains are shaken off.
The Lightning were fortunate to have dressed an extra defenseman tonight and Paul Ranger's minutes were partially absorbed by the three headed monster of Mike Lundin, Matt Smaby, and Doug Janik. Unfortunately, the three were a combined -5 in the game.
Lundin led the group in ice time with 20:27 but was -2 with no shots on goal and no hits for the contest. Smaby had the second most ice time at 14:36 and was -1 with 1 hit. Janik brought up the rear with 12:32 of ice time and a -2 rating. Both Smaby and Janik also took penalties for tripping and hooking, respectively.
Erik Erlendsson has another blog post today noting that veteran AHLers Bryce Lampman, Kyle Wanvig, and Mathieu Darche have been put on waivers with a view toward reassigning them to Norfolk of the AHL. Erlendsson goes on to speculate this may mean that contrary to prior statements by the Lightning, they may carry 21 into the regular season meaning both prospects Mike Lundin and Matt Smaby may make the opening night roster.
Hat tip to Randy from Admirals Zone for bringing it to my attention.
According to Erik Erlendsson's blog the fourth line at today's practice included center Craig MacDonald while the third pairing at the practice featured defensemen Doug Janik and Mike Lundin. Given that Torts has been adament that his lineup Saturday night will be his opening night lineup barring injuries and that the team will only carry 20 players into the regular season this may be a tip off that veteran forwards Kyle Wanvig, Mathieu Darche, Bryce Lampman and prospect Matt Smaby will be the odd men out.
Kind of a mixed bag in this game.
Karri Ramo stopped 20 of 23 shots faced for the win. He was hung out to dry on the Wings two early goals but did manage to retain composure and made some key stops in the second before surrendering a soft goal in the third. More good than bad.
Martin St. Louis potted a pair of goals with double assists going to Jason Ward and Brad Richards. Andre Roy and Andreas Karlsson also had goals. Vaclav Prospal, Craig MacDonald, and Filip Kuba all had individual helpers.
Big winner of the night: Craig MacDonald who probably just made the Lightning's opening night roster by virtue of Ryan Craig's slipped back disc. He had an assist and was +1 with 3 shots on goal to celebrate.
The other big winner of the night: the Lightning power play which might've found a temporary solution with Martin St. Louis filling in for Dan Boyle on the point.
Finally, for the winners, Mike Lundin gets 12:02 of ice time with one shot on goal. However humble that might be, it was more than Janik and Lampman got tonight. The door may be open for Matt Smaby to charge back into the race now if he can play a strong, confident game Thursday night.
I wouldn't label any losers in this game although the quest for Ramo, Mathieu Darche, and Kyle Wanvig looks to be coming to a close. Ramo and Darche look like strong possibilities for recall down the road though.