THE LIGHTNING INSIDER
Jay Feaster and John Tortorella's "meritocracy" seems to be alive and well this season based on who will be in the line-up tonight. After watching today’s morning skate, it looks like rookies Mike Lundin and Matt Smaby will get the nod to appear in their first career NHL games, while Doug Janik will sit out. Janik stayed out with tonight’s backup, Marc Denis, for an intense extra skate after the 30-minute workout, a reliable sign that he will sit.
In total, five players will make their Lightning debuts tonight, including forwards Jan Hlavac, Michel Ouellet and Craig MacDonald. Add in Jason Ward and Shane O’Brien, who were late arrivals last season, and you can see Feaster and Tortorella’s wish for the Lightning to be a harder team to play against taking shape.
Ryan Craig, Dan Boyle and Andreas Karlsson skated on their own this morning prior to the practice and each is progressing as expected. Karlsson likely won’t miss too much time, and Craig seems more comfortable every day.
Tortorella was calm and focused during his chat with the Tampa Bay and New Jersey media and broadcasters this morning. As is the case upwards of 80 times a season, Tortorella was asked about tonight’s opponent and replied with his usual “I’m not going to talk about the opponent; we’re just concerned about our team right now” line. “No disrespect to the Devils, of course.”
The topic of Chris Gratton came up and Tortorella indicated he has no plans to hold Gratton back even though he only played a couple of shifts in the preseason before injuring his eye.
“He’ll play,” Tortorella said. “He’s a utility player for us, and it all depends on what happens as the game goes on.”
Tortorella also indicated that he expects Gratton to have a strong season because there won’t be any unreasonable expectations placed on him this time around.
One item for fans to note is that the Lightning helmets this morning were decked out with pink “Hockey Fights Cancer” stickers on the back. Every team in the league will wear the stickers in October as part of a league initiative. As Andre Roy noted as he walked to the bench this morning, the St. Pete Times Forum looks like it’s ready for a birthday party with the seats covered with metallic blue and silver pom-poms compliments of Sweetbay Supermarket. The first 10,000 fans through the doors tonight will also receive a Lightning schedule magnet from Snapple.