Tampa Bay Lightning forward Benoit Pouliot is playing with his fourth team in four years, so facing off against a former team doesn’t exactly stand out for him these days.
Pouliot appeared in 74 games with the Boston Bruins last season before his rights were dealt to Tampa Bay in June.
Thursday is the first time he will face his former teammates, but the approach doesn’t change.
“It’s the same as any other game,’’ Pouliot said. “I don’t want to think about it too much, I just want to play like it was any other team out there, keep playing the way I’ve been playing.’’
Pouliot enjoyed his best season in the NHL last year, finishing with 16 goals and 32 points. The fourth overall selection in the 2005 draft by Minnesota, the 26-year-old had been a disappointment early in his career. He thought he had found a spot with the Bruins until he was informed Boston did not intend to re-sign him.
The Lightning acquired his rights on June 23 and signed him to a new one-year contract worth $1.8 million on July 1.
“It’s always tough when you know you are not coming back …especially when I had a pretty decent year for my role where I played in Boston,’’ Pouliot said. “That was hard, but at the same time I’m happy to be here in Tampa and things are going well, so I can’t really complain.’’
Pouliot enters Thursday night’s game with a four-game scoring streak. He tied a career high with three assists in Tuesday’s win against Toronto. He has played primarily on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis for the past week.
RW Adam Hall has been a healthy scratch before, so he knows the drill. But he also handles the situation with professionalism, as he did when he was a surprise scratch Tuesday against Toronto.
“It’s all part of being a professional, you know what this game is and what it’s all about,’’ Hall said. “We are all here because we are competitive guys, so there is not a single game goes by that every player in this room wouldn’t want to play. I’m no different, I want to get in there every night. I’m excited I want to compete and win. That’s one of the things that you are always working for.’’
Telling a player he won’t be in the lineup is one the toughest aspects of being a head coach, Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said.
“I think all our players have all handled the decisions well, externally,’’ Boucher said. “Internally, I’m sure that whatever player it is, you are not happy and you want to play. That’s what you want. Any player that is happy not playing is a problem. So, I think it’s the willing of the players to act the right way around the team, that’s noticeable definitely.’’
Former Lightning D Jassen Cullimore, a member of the 2004 Stanley Cup championship team, will serve as the color analyst for tonight’s radio broadcast, filling in for Phil Esposito alongside Dave Mishkin.
Cullimore, who spent seven seasons with Tampa Bay, finished his playing career last season in Germany after 812 career NHL games with five organizations. He and his wife, along with their three girls, returned to the Tampa area in August. Cullimore recently helped out on the Lightning’s weekly radio show and is exploring doing more media work.
LW Ryan Malone, out since Feb. 10 with a lower body injury, began light skating this week on his own without gear. He could be back on the ice for more workouts by this weekend.
“He’s very close to skating,’’ Boucher said. “I can’t give you a timeline here, but he’s definitely getting better.’’
The lineup will be a game-time decision, Boucher said, with one unnamed player who is sick. D Keith Aulie was not on the ice for the morning skate and his gear was not in his locker. …Anders Lindback is scheduled to start in goal. …The Bruins, who had seven players miss practice earlier this week with flu symptoms, appear to be fully healthy for Thursday’s game.