Tampa Bay Lightning
Stamkos Gets His 1st Goal Out Of The Way
TAMPA - In the grand scheme, Steven Stamkos' first goal in a Lightning uniform carried very little weight - he didn't even keep the puck. But for Stamkos, there was plenty of meaning to putting his first puck into an NHL net during Tampa Bay's 3-2 preseason victory against the New York Rangers. "It was nice to get the monkey off my back a little bit, and even though it doesn't count for anything it's nice to get the confidence going to know that you can score goals at this level," said Stamkos, who logged 14:46 of ice time and had three hits while winning six of nine faceoffs. Judging from the wrist shot that found the short-side corner from the left circle, Stamkos can score at any level. After Radim Vrbata weaved into the zone, he zipped a pass over to Stamkos, who took a quick second to collect the puck before picking the top corner for a power-play goal at 7:01 of the second period."That's a major-league shot to put it under the bar like that, he's got that kind of talent," Lightning associate coach Rick Tocchet said. "And you talk to the goal scorers, once you get that first one, even though it's exhibition, it gets a little easier." Marty St. Louis also scored a power-play goal for the Lightning, while Ryan Craig scored his first of the preseason. G Mike Smith, making his preseason debut in net, stopped 38 shots. CUTS: The Lighting reassigned six players after Tuesday's game. Heading to training camp for Tampa Bay's minor-league affiliate in Norfolk, Va.: D Ty Wishart, G Riku Helenius and forwards Wyatt Smith, Radel Smolenak and Paul Szczechura. Former second-round pick Dana Tyrell was returned to his junior team, Prince George of the Western Hockey League. Tampa Bay is left with 28 healthy bodies heading into the final game in North America on Thursday, while Vinny Lecavalier, Paul Ranger, Nick Tarnasky and Jeff Halpern all remain injured. LINEUP CHANGE: The original lineup included LW Jason Ward, but a switch was made in the morning to put LW Evgeny Artyukhin back into game action. Artyukhin helped set up the first goal as he blew by Rangers D Wade Redden to cut in alone on net, allowing Craig to put in the rebound. "In the last game, Arty did some good things," Tocchet said. "He's a guy that we are going to count on, and he's a project, we're going to do some work with him, but Barry Melrose wanted to get him some more shifts in an exhibition game." OLD-GRR THAN DIRT: The Lightning's third line on Tuesday featured three players with a combined age of 115 while appearing in 3,672 NHL games. The youngest of the trio was 1993 No. 3 overall pick Chris Gratton, now 33, who centered 40-year-old wingers Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts. "You need an abacus to count up the number of games those guys have played, because calculators weren't invented yet when they came into the league," Melrose said. NUTS AND BOLTS: Today's scheduled practice was canceled, as the team leaves for New York before departing for Prague, Czech Republic, after Thursday's game against the Rangers.
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