The Tampa Bay Lightning were on the ice again Wednesday morning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, holding practice following Tuesday’s 3-2 close-fought win over the Ottawa Senators.
Here are a few notes from today’s on-ice session leading into tomorrow night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins that concludes the Bolts’ two-game homestand:
Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio made his NHL debut Tuesday night versus Ottawa, logging 14:12 of ice time, including 3:55 on the power play, and recording a shot on goal, while also registering a minus-1 rating.
The call-up was long in the making for the defenseman, as he was considered to be the last of the NHL-ready youngsters from Syracuse to come up following the likes of Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Radko Gudas and others.
Although he respectfully acknowledged the process of developing down in the AHL, crediting both Steve Yzerman and Julien BriseBois for being honest with him all along that one day he would get his chance, he said he felt a bit nervous when the time finally came to step on the ice.
“I knew a little bit about what to expect just from being in the organization since 2008 and having coach Cooper and some of my Crunch teammates here already, so that made the transition a little easier, but honestly, I’m glad the first one is over with,” Barberio said.
He went on to add that with one game now under his belt, he’s ready to move on and contribute the way he knows how, that is being defensively responsible in his own end, moving the puck up to the forwards, and as he put it “settling in and just playing hockey.”
“His first shift I thought was unreal,” Cooper said. “I thought he just did his thing. He hit his spots, he distributed the puck on our power play, and yeah, he turned the puck over a couple of times in the defensive zone but that’s to be expected, but I’m sure he was nervous. Overall though, he did a great job and set a nice bar for himself.”
ONE FOR LABRIE
During Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Senators, Pierre-Cedric Labrie became the sixth different Lightning player to score his first career NHL goal this season.
Labrie, who appeared in 14 games with the Bolts last season, and who is known more for his size, toughness and for being a great locker room guy, scored at 2:35 of the second period to help Tampa Bay erase a one-goal deficit.
But it was a long time coming for the Lightning winger, who went undrafted, then was signed by Tampa Bay as a free agent and spent the majority of last season in the AHL, and who just came off of Injured Reserve prior to last night’s game.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Labrie said. “An incredible feeling.”
Even so, being one of the fan favorites on the team, as well as well-liked among teammates and coaches, Cooper hinted that the guys on the team may have been even more excited than Labrie himself.
“I know I was really excited to be a part of that moment,” Cooper said. “It was a dream come true for him, and he asked me today whether I saw his interview from last night, because I tend to believe that it probably was actually better than his goal.”
Cooper hinted that he might go with Ben Bishop in net again tomorrow, which would be the netminder’s fifth consecutive start since joining the Lightning last week.
Bishop, though, has looked sharp and has posted good numbers since joining Tampa Bay, posting a 2-2-0 record, but with a 2.02 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.
And, as Cooper said Wednesday, “if you look at the big picture, he’s probably played less than 20 games this year, and if we can’t sneak our way into the playoffs, he’s going to have four months off, so we’re not just throwing him in. He feels great, and he keeps earning the starts, so why wouldn’t we?’
That said, it presents an interesting scenario with Anders Lindback continuing to feel better every day as he recovers from a high-ankle sprain.
He skated again on Wednesday morning, and as Cooper stated Tuesday prior to the game, it will be a necessity to get Lindback in there and have him play.
“We need to see him,” Cooper said. “He's a huge part of our future. To me, it's 1A and 1A [with Lindback and Bishop], so they need to get in there. They need to talk about the game, and that's all from playing.”
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