Three days away from the opening of the U20 World Junior Championships and exhibition tune up games are well underway. Slovakia defeated Belarus today 5-3 in their second tune up match in Sweden. Both defenseman Vladimir Mihalik and left wing Marek Bartanus were scoreless in the match for Slovakia. Mihalik played on the team's first pairing and received 6 minutes in penalties in the matchup. Bartanus played on Slovakia's second line and had 6 penalty minutes as well. Both players were involved in an ugly scrum in the middle of the third period which led to double roughing minors for each.
Bartanus had Slovakia's only goal in their 4-1 exhibition loss to Finland on Friday.
Red Line Report writes in their latest column in USA Today their top seven recruiting classes in the country for college hockey and the University of Michigan checks in at #3. Michigan, of course, is the destination of Lightning prospect Kevin Quick who is currently playing his finally season of prep hockey in Connecticut before moving on to the college ranks. Red Line's take on Quick: "a smooth puck mover". Quick was the unofficial MVP of the Lightning's prospect orientation camp last summer.
With the recalls of leading scorers Randy Rowe and Maxime Boisclair, the Chiefs today signed former Johnstown standout forward Dimitri Tarabrin. Tarabrin was second on the Chiefs in scoring last season with 21 goals and 50 points in 62 games. He had been playing in the UHL with Bloomington this season where he posted 4 goals and 5 points in 25 games before coming back to the ECHL.
As a part of Bolt Prospects' midterm player evaluations, I will be live blogging this game while watching via the B2 Networks feed. Check this blog post between periods for updates.
Here's the big news tonight in pregame. Not only will Maxime Boisclair be making his AHL debut in this matchup but defenseman Andy Rogers will be returning to the lineup after missing two months due to injury. John Adams and Zdenek Blatny are healthy scratches and Justin Keller and Mike Egener (upper body injury) will be out due to injury.
1. HFD- Weller, (Ortmeyer, Korpikoski)
2. SPR- Kvapil, (Rogers, Jones)(PP)
3. HFD- Ortmeyer, (Degon)
That felt like a turning point to me.
Marc Denis stopped 16 of 18 shots faced for the win in a game where the Lightning outshot a very skilled and very fast Ottawa team 30-18. Impressive. Paul Ranger and Vincent Lecavalier each had 1 goal and 1 assist with the other Lightning goals coming from Martin St. Louis and Ruslan Fedotenko. Brad Richards added an individual helper.
Tonight felt like a turning point for the Lightning, in my opinion. The Lightning played an incredibly solid game against a team they traditionally struggle with more than any other club in the league. To hold a team as loaded as Ottawa to 18 shots is simply amazing, and with the exception of the Lightning's usual impotent power play performance they crossed every T and dotted every I in this game and all those details you address over the course of 60 minutes will inevitably add up to a win. It was 100% appropriate the game winning goal by Ranger came off a little thing like a faceoff win. This team has lost a slew of one goal games this season because they haven't managed the details this year. Tonight showed when they do, they can beat even their most formidable nemesis soundly.
In my opinion, this was a very critical game for both Ottawa and Tampa. Neither team is playing well right now and I had a feeling going into this one that the winner had a chance to springboard and get well positioned in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt while the loser could be reeling for at least another week or two. Fortunately, the Lightning put forth one of their best efforts and if they can knock off a talented by struggling Rangers squad on Saturday they can pull into Christmas at .500. That seemed impossible just a week ago. .500 on December 25th sets this team up nicely to break out strong once they get back to work.
By the way, if this team does break out after Christmas, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis will both be MVP candidates down the stretch of this season. They've been incredible this year and easily a couple of the best kept secrets in the league, if that's possible. 9 out of 10 games this season they've been the two best players on the ice not just for the Lightning but both teams on the rink. The only serious question to me isn't whether or not they're worthy of consideration to get the hardware, but rather which one is Batman and which one is Robin?
Ottawa 2:21, Dany Heatley 20 (power play) (Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza)
Tampa Bay 5:46, Martin St. Louis 23 (Vincent Lecavalier)
Ottawa 13:53, Antoine Vermette 13 (Patrick Eaves)
Tampa Bay 3:30, Ruslan Fedotenko 9 (Paul Ranger)
Tampa Bay 8:53, Paul Ranger 1 (Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 19:07, Vincent Lecavalier 20 (empty net) (unassisted)
Game sheet from NHL.com.