ANAHEIM, Calif. — After 10 games playing up and down the lineup, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent RW Brett Connolly back down to the American Hockey League on Friday.
Connolly was called up on Oct. 31 with the opportunity to play in a top nine role and provide some offensive spark after leading the team in goals during the preseason. In the 10 games since then, the former No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft had one goal - the game winner against St. Louis on Nov. 2 - and was a minus-five.
When the Lightning lost No. 1 center Steven Stamkos to a broken leg, Connolly was placed in the role of top line center. But after struggling in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Connolly started Thursday’s game in San Jose on the fourth line.
“We’ve played him actually in all three forward positions, which isn’t necessarily ideal, but we’ve using been a top nine and he’s gotten probably around 12 to 13 minutes a game and he is just struggling to find his game,’’ Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said. “He is just not getting things accomplished so we feel it’s better for him to go back and play a lot of minutes. He’ll play in all situations and continue with his development.’’
Last season with Syracuse Connolly was named a second team All Star after scoring 31 goals and finishing the season with 63 points. He added six goals and 11 points in the run to the Calder Cup Final while also picking up a goal during a five-game call up toward the end of the season.
While the lack of offensive production is what stands out, Yzerman said there is still more Connolly needs to learn at the NHL level.
“I believe the goal scoring comes from being in the right spots and doing the right things,’’ Yzerman said. “When you are not scoring, you are thinking about where you should be and you are not just playing the game. So I want him to get there and stop thinking, go out there and play. There are specifics to his game that we want him working on and really all parts of this game, just getting better, getting back to last year. He’s a strong powerful, guy and he was able to get to the net and make plays. Right now not much is happening.’’
Connolly understands the decision.
“You have to obviously play better,’’ he said. “I wasn’t getting as much accomplished as I know I can. It’s just a matter of me going back and finding my game. I have to better, I understand their reasoning.’’
Stamkos has begun rehabilitation back in Tampa less than two weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a titanium rod in his leg to help repair a broken tibia bone in his right leg. There continues to be no established time table for Stamkos to return.
“He’s doing good,’’ Yzerman said. “He’s up and moving around reasonably well so things seem to be (fine), and it’s only 10 days (since the surgery), but he’s doing fine.’’
Nuts and Bolts
LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie was a healthy scratch. ... D Andrej Sustr returned to the lineup after being scratched the previous two games as Cooper dressed seven defensemen and 11 forwards. ... Tampa Bay will be off on Saturday before returning to practice on Sunday. ... Nine players on Tampa Bay’s active roster were not born when Anaheim RW Teemu Selanne was drafted by Winnipeg in 1988. ... The Ducks honored D Scott Niedermayer before Saturday’s game for his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.