TAMPA — The Lightning recalled F Brett Connolly from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League on Wednesday as insurance in case veteran RW Marty St. Louis was unable to play Thursday with a sore foot.
After Saturday’s game against the Bruins, Tampa Bay doesn’t play again until Thursday, when they host the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. When asked Saturday morning about the plans for the 2010 first-round draft pick, coach Jon Cooper said, “That decision will be made after the buzzer sounds.”
In three games with the Crunch this season, Connolly has one assist. He was tied for first on the Lightning during the preseason with four goals in five games.
If he is shipped back to Syracuse, Connolly is confident he’ll rejoin the Lightning at some point.
“You have to continue what you’re doing, and they have their lines set,” he said. “I know my opportunity will come, it’s just a matter of when that is. I just have to keep improving on my game.”
Connolly had nine minutes, 38 seconds of ice time during Thursday’s 3-1 win against the Wild.
“I wasn’t too sure when I’d be back, but to be back this quickly is obviously nice,” Connolly said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to play with Marty being still in, but it was nice for them to put me on the line.”
Last season, Connolly appeared in five games with the Lightning, scoring one goal. He has skated in 73 career NHL games, recording five goals and 16 points with 30 penalty minutes.
“It’s just a matter of taking it day-by-day for me, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Thank you, Bruins
After losing 3-1 in Boston on opening night, the Lightning won five of their next six games before welcoming the Bruins to the Forum on Saturday night.
The Lightning say they have the Bruins to thank for that stretch.
“That kind of set our tone for this season, that first game,” Cooper said.
The Bruins scored twice shorthanded to pull out the win, but the Lightning outshot them 33-25, including a 15-6 margin in the first period.
“We had a pretty big-time test, and although we didn’t get the two points we came for, (we said), if we play like this, not only the physical aspect, because we pushed back and they tried to push us around a little bit and we pushed back, so I learned a little bit about our team that way,” Cooper said. “I think it’s carried on and probably why we’re winning.”
Undrafted free-agent D Andrej Sustr learned a valuable lesson Thursday night. With three seconds remaining in the game and the Lightning holding a 3-1 lead, the puck came to Sustr after a face-off between Tampa Bay’s Nate Thompson and Minnesota’s Zenon Konopka. Instead of holding on to the puck, he shot it and it hit a Wild player, leading to a minor altercation that led to unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties on Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen and Konopka.
“I wouldn’t take that shot again if I had a chance,” Sustr said. “It’s just things you got to learn sometimes.”
“Should he have picked his spots in a 3-1 game and shoot a puck with two seconds left? He shouldn’t,” Cooper said. “But is he going to learn from it? Yes, he is. Will he ever do it again? Probably not. Sometimes you have to learn from these. “
Sustr said he knew he had made a mistake as soon as he shot the puck.
“It’s a thing that shouldn’t happen,” he said. “I put myself and my teammates in a bad spot. As soon as I shot, I knew.”
Said Cooper: “I think if you talk to their goaltender, I think he just wanted to get off the ice as much as everybody else did. But again, there is an etiquette to this game and that probably is a slight breach, but harmless.”