Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning notes: Lindback draws praise from Cooper
After missing the past month with an ankle sprain, Tampa Bay Lightning G Anders Lindback returned to the lineup Sunday for his first start in more than a month.
Though the results won’t show it, Lindback was solid, stopping 25 shots in a 3-2 loss to Carolina while receiving little help in front of him during a three-goal opening period.
“I have a hard time feeling OK when we don’t win,” Lindback said. “It’s a little off when you haven’t played and it’s tough in this tight schedule when you can’t replicate games and practice. We don’t have that much time. It obviously felt a little off at times, but as the game went on it felt better and better.”
Lindback suffered a high ankle sprain during the second period at Toronto on March 20 in a relief effort. At the time he was putting together his best stretch of the season, allowing two or fewer goals in five consecutive starts from March 5-18. Since then, the Lightning have changed their head coach and acquired G Ben Bishop.
With all that having taken place since the last time Lindback appeared in a game, there was some sense that he needed to get into a game before the season ends on Saturday and not wait until the start of next season.
“I think it was important for (Lindback) to know that he can get back in and play an NHL game,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I don’t think he should worry about what I’m thinking. It’s more how our defensive system (works), about making that first save and having our guys in front battle for him and clear rebounds. I’m sure his mindset is about playing well now and then what he has to do in the summer to be ready for next season.”
Lindback had been skating with the team for the past two weeks and looked to be ready to get back to action quickly, but he indicated to the coaching staff that he wasn’t ready. Cooper said the decision to return was completely up to Lindback to inform them when he felt ready.
Cooper liked what he saw in Lindback’s first game in goal since the new head coach took over.
“He made some big saves … to avoid this game from getting out of hand and gave us a chance to come back,” Cooper said. “And then when we really get rolling in the third, we give up one big-time chance on (Jeff Skinner). And I know we didn’t come back to tie it, but if that goes in, we definitely don’t have a chance to come back. So there were a lot of good things to look at what he did.”
C Tom Pyatt returned to the lineup after missing the past two games since taking a hit from Buffalo D Mike Weber on April 14 that left him with concussion-like symptoms, though he was never officially diagnosed with a concussion.
In addition, D Sami Salo, who left during the first period of Thursday’s game in Montreal, also was back on the ice.
With everybody healthy, the Lightning scratched LW Benoit Pouliot, who took a late penalty on Thursday that led to a final-minute loss in Montreal, and G Mathieu Garon.
With the Lightning officially eliminated from playoff contention, eyes for some players quickly will turn to the World Hockey Championships, which begin in Sweden and Finland on May 3 and run through the gold-medal game on May 19.
Tampa Bay has several candidates to represent their country, though no roster announcements have been made.
C Steven Stamkos is expected to represent Canada, which is being put together by Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman.
Lindback and D Victor Hedman both said they would be open to playing for Sweden, while D Matt Carle indicated he’s been in touch with his agent about representing the United States.
In addition, RW Teddy Purcell played for Canada last season, while C Nate Thompson represented the U.S.
Nuts and Bolts
Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier celebrated his 33rd birthday. … A moment of silence was held before the opening faceoff in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. … The goal allowed 16 seconds into the game was the third-fastest allowed by Tampa Bay on home ice, tying Sergei Zholtok’s goal for Edmonton on March 13, 2001. The fastest goal allowed came seven seconds in by Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin on Jan. 5, 2011. … RW Marty St. Louis will sign autographs today at the Chase bank on 56th Street and Bruce B. Downs in Tampa from 4-5:30 p.m. … LW Ryan Malone will sign autographs at the Outback Steakhouse at 11950 Sheldon Road in Tampa from 6-7 p.m. today.
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