TAMPA - Less than a week after signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, D Andrej Sustr made his NHL debut Friday. New Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper opted to dress seven defensemen — a strategy he said he likes to employ — which allowed Sustr to dress as the extra defenseman against the New Jersey Devils. Sustr, who was signed as a free agent out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha last weekend, arrived in Tampa on Monday and skated with the team for the first time on Tuesday during the morning skate. He was in the full practice with the rest of the team on Thursday. The 6-foot-8, 200-pound native of the Czech Republic took warmups without knowing for sure if he would be in the lineup, but he felt like he was ready to go whenever he was called upon. “Obviously, everything is a little bit faster and guys are more skilled (at the NHL level), but I think I've done pretty well for myself,'' Sustr said. “It's been amazing, and things are definitely different from college in how we are treated and stuff. And everybody here has just been really great with me and I'm just really happy to be here. It's been a dream come true and I'm enjoying every minute of it'' Cooper, who was making his NHL debut as well, remembers seeing Sustr during their time in the United States Hockey League, and he was impressed to see how much Sustr had developed when he saw the big defenseman at last summer's Lightning prospect camp. “It's amazing that guys that big can skate like that, big men who just glide down the ice, and he's one of them,'' Cooper said. “But I like him, I know it's only been two practices, but he hasn't looked out of place at all, so it's encouraging.'' Assistant coach Dan Lacroix, who runs the defense, also liked the first impression he got from Sustr, which also includes his work in the video room. “Personally, I've been impressed with his skating ability, his presence with wanting to have the puck on his stick and make plays,'' LaCroix said. “I was trying to give him less (video work) and he wanted more. I want to give him less not to overcrowd him … want him to relax and go out there and have fun playing the game. And he seems like a smart kid, he asks pertinent questions in regards to the systems, so he wants to be prepared.''
A private family memorial is being held this weekend for former Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming, who died Monday. A larger memorial for Fleming is being planned for this summer. The University of Manitoba has established the Wayne Fleming Legacy Athletic Scholarship in his honor. Online donations can be made by mailing a check to Donor Relations, Room 179 Extended Education Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 or online via www.umanitoba.ca/giving.
C Vinny Lecavalier, who is believed to have a fracture in his left foot, continues to skate on his own but is not ready to resume skating with the team. Lecavalier has been out since suffering the injury late in a game at Florida on March 12. He was placed on injured reserve and was expected to miss at least three weeks. Friday was the eighth game he has missed. G Anders Lindback, who suffered an ankle sprain on March 20 in Toronto, said he is feeling much better and could begin testing the ankle as soon as next week. Lindback has been walking around the locker room without a limp, but he knows with this sort of injury he needs to be cautious. LW Ryan Malone, out with a shoulder injury, continues rehab to regain strength in the shoulder. He was injured on March 19 when hit by Philadelphia's Zach Rinaldo.
LW Cory Conacher will be looking for somewhere to catch some NCAA action this weekend to see his alma mater, Canisius College, make its NCAA hockey tournament debut in the Providence Regional on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. The Golden Griffins, who earned their first NCAA tournament appearance by winning the Atlantic Hockey Association tournament championship, face off against overall top-ranked Quinnipiac, the alma mater of Lightning head athletic trainer Tom Mulligan. “It's going to be exciting to see how they do,'' Conacher said. “I think they deserved winning the (AHA) championship because they worked hard all year, the coaching staff did a great job and they have a good goalie.''
Nuts and Bolts
RW Dana Tyrell, D Marc-Andre Bergeron and LW B.J. Crombeen were scratched. ... G Martin Brodeur, a career-long member of the Devils, entered Friday's game with 666 career victories. ... The penalty shot for New Jersey RW Tom Kostopolous was the first allowed by Tampa Bay this season and the 36th allowed in Lightning history. It was the 18th successful conversion. ... The penalty shot was the 11th G Mathieu Garon has faced in his career, and he is now 7-for-11.