THE LIGHTNING INSIDER
As is usually the case, the mood in the Lightning locker room is a lot more businesslike today as the regular season opener looms. For the past 20 days the players, coaches and trainers have been working toward being ready for the Devils. Everyone seems ready to play the games that count.
On the ice, Lightning head coach John Tortorella didn’t waste time making sure the players knew what day it was. Tortorella lit into the team early in the workout after some sloppiness, gathering the players together for a passionate speech that set the tone for a focused session. Practice was only about 50 minutes, a little shorter than the others have been so the legs will be fresh tomorrow. Judging by the number of hits thrown (Shane O’Brien in particular) and the battles in the corners, the players are anxious to get started.
Following practice, Tortorella didn’t give up much about tomorrow night, although he said Mike Lundin will definitely be one of the six defensemen. He wouldn’t reveal if Matt Smaby or Doug Janik would get the call for the last spot, but he indicated he won’t dress seven D this time. As far as match-ups go, Tortorella said he and Mike Sullivan were going to try to make sure not to send out together whichever two of Lundin-Smaby-Janik are in the lineup for the first few games. To prepare for the mixing and matching on D, no consistent pairs have emerged from practice.
As for the special teams, Tortorella said he expects Craig MacDonald, Chris Gratton and Jan Hlavac to possibly see time on the penalty killing units, and possibly Lundin as well.
Forwards Andreas Karlsson (abdominal strain) and Ryan Craig (back) stayed off the ice, and Lightning head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said Gratton had received a special contact lens Tuesday night that should help his eye to heal. Mulligan still expects Gratton to be ready tomorrow night.
Also spotted in the locker room this morning was captain Tim Taylor, who’s walking better and even demonstrated the therapy exercises he’s able to perform (standing on his healing leg) after hip surgery.
Tomorrow the Lightning will have a quick warm-up skate at 10:30. I’ll try to post the lineup shortly thereafter.