THE LIGHTNING INSIDER
Once again, the Vincent Lecavalier Celebrity Texas Hold'Em tournament at the Hard Rock Casino last night was a massive success. Close to 300 people plunked down the $550 entry fee to hang out with celebs, take a crack at winning $10,000 and support a fantastic cause - The Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorder Center at St. Pete's All Children's Hospital.
The Lightning’s Brad Richards, Marty St. Louis (the defending celeb champion), Andre Roy, Chris Gratton, Doug Janik, Tim Taylor, Marc Denis, Paul Ranger and Nick Tarnasky joined Lecavalier and a host of other celebrities to take a shot at earning $10,000 for the charity of their choice.
The action at the tables was fast and intense, and by the end Taylor and Brothers & Sisters star John Pyper-Ferguson chose to split the pot for their charities as the last two celebs standing. Boxer "Winky" Wright and tennis pro Mardy Fish made the final four in the celeb competition, while Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander was at the other end of the spectrum as the first celebrity to fall. "It's a school night and I have to get my kids home" was the rocker's defense.
Other special guests attracting the attention of the male patrons included Fish's girlfriend and "briefcase #2" on Deal Or No Deal - Stacey Gardner, and Playboy playmate Julie Cialini. The Insider was fortunate enough to receive a seat in the competition, but it was a short night courtesy of Indy Racing champion Dan Wheldon (he got lucky!).
The party in the ballroom featured a who's who of the Tampa charity circuit, with Wade Boggs, Mike Alstott, Outback's Chris Sullivan, lawyer Steve Yerrid and Antonio Tarver among those holding court while 102.5 The Bone’s Mike “Cowhead” Calta interviewed the celebs as they got knocked out. Lightning GM Jay Feaster gave a stirring introduction for the man of honor, talking about how he hopes to be the GM who ensures Vinny finishes his career in a Lightning sweater. I second that one!
The Lightning announced this afternoon that Mathieu Darche and Craig MacDonald had cleared waivers and that the pair of forwards, along with defenseman Matt Smaby, had been assigned to Norfolk. The move had more to do with numbers than performance, and Lightning coach John Tortorella indicated that he expected both Darche and MacDonald to be back with the Lightning this season. The trio is expected to provide an immediate boost for Norfolk, which has struggled on offense this season.
The Bolts held a 45-minute practice session this morning that was loose and lively, with some big hits thrown along the boards. The team’s energy level seems high, and now that there are only 20 healthy bodies in the locker room nobody has to look over their shoulder to see if they’re going to be scratched or not. I think one of the positive by-products of the team’s recent losing slump is that even though things have gone well the past three games, nobody’s getting overconfident or forgetting about the fine line between winning and losing.
Carolina held a 1 p.m. skate at the Times Forum today after their victory in Florida last night. You can bet the Hurricanes are anxious to get back on the ice with the Lightning after last Thursday’s home loss.
Thanks for everyone that submitted questions to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep sending them in and I’ll try to answer them all once a week.
Joseph Tung asks:
I am wondering what exactly is going on with Dan Boyle these days? He comes back for about four games and minus-7 while taking five shots. Is he going to be out again for a long time?
Insider: Not sure how much you’ve been reading lately but a lot has happened on that front since I received your email. After returning to the Lightning line-up for four games it was determined that Boyle’s wrist had not healed correctly. He was reevaluated and the decision was made by the Lightning medical staff to proceed with a second surgery to repair the tendons. The procedure was performed in Baltimore at the Curtis National Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital by renowned hand surgeon, Dr. Thomas J. Graham. The operation consisted of transferring a tendon from an adjacent finger to restore normal strength and function to Boyle's thumb and wrist. The hand will remain immobilized in a splint for the next few weeks, after which time an individualized rehabilitation plan will be carried out. The team has placed him in the NHL’s Injured Reserve list and he is listed as out indefinitely.
Phil Barry of Dunedin asks:
After the layoff of 2005, the NHL changed the rules to remove the red line making it somewhat of a faster, more wide open game. Did this change effectively keep the trap system from slowing down the game or not, and do you think the playing style of the Lightning, often referred to as "go go go", was perhaps an influence for that decision?
Insider: That is a tricky question. As far as the Lightning’s playing style effecting the league’s decision to remove the two-line offside, I highly doubt it. As the league was announcing the various reasons for the rule changes coming out of the lockout the general consensus was that they were trying to make the game more exciting by increasing offense league-wide. Removing the red line, and thereby removing the two-line pass, allows teams to go for the “home run pass” to send forwards in on breakaways. There was a great example of this in last week’s game at Carolina when Andreas Karlsson hit Shane O’Brien as he came out of the penalty box. Under the old rules the play would have been whistled down for a two-line pass, but with the new rules O’Brien went in alone and beat Cam Ward low to the stick side. As far as the trap goes, it is still alive and well. While the rule change may force defenses to be more aware of where opposing skaters are, it doesn’t make the trap obsolete. Teams can still effectively clog up the middle and force teams to get the puck deep and chase it.
My question is not about the team, but I'm wondering if you can answer why the goal judge has been moved from behind the net, to the handicapped sections in the corners of the arena?
Insider: After last season the NHL gave each team the option to move the off-ice officials away from behind the net and put them in a more fan-friendly place. As you mentioned the Lightning’s off-ice guys are now located in the wheelchair accessible sections in each end zone. This way they still have a good view of the goal line and they do not block anyone’s view of the game. Previously fans in the end zones would have a big box made of plexi-glass to deal with in order to see the play.
Why haven't you carried a story of Lightning fanatic Steve Williamson and his 30 days 30 games journey? If the New York Times can splash the story over a half-page, where is the Club? The journey ends on November 24 at the (St. Pete Times Forum) and I hope the management takes the opportunity to salute Steve as the Lightning and NHL’s greatest fan.
Insider: Not sure if you’ve seen it, but here is the TBL.com story written by commentator Erin Chenderlin: http://lightning.nhl.com/team/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&bcid=342762. Steve’s journey is a great story and no doubt warrants the coverage he is getting. The Lightning have already been helping him in his travels with tickets, etc. He will also be honored/recognized on the 24th when he trip concludes against the Devils.
Dear hockey insider; I am concerned about the minus figures of Brad Richards and Jan Hlavac. Is it a problem, or an early season glich? Does the Coach need to change up the way he is using these two?
Insider: If you asked the coaching staff I’m sure they would not be too concerned. Coach Tortorella has consistently said that he looks more at the chances for versus chances against. For the purpose of your question I think you have to look at the number of power play points Brad Richards has. Last year 48 percent of his goals (12 of 25) and 47 percent (33 of 70) of his points were scored with the man advantage and special teams goals do not count for plus-minus. This year Richards has six goals with three of them coming on the power play and nine of his 18 points have come with the man advantage. Hlavac is a minus-8 this season through 17 games but consider that he has had a minus rating once outside the Lightning’s recent six-game losing streak (a minus-2 rating on October 18 at Boston). If he starts to bury some of his chances, and he creates a number of them, his rating should continue to climb.