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Martin Fennelly Columns

Stopping scrutiny tough for Tampa Bay Lightning's Lindback

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 09:11 AM
BRANDON -

The new, and tallest, goaltender in Lightning history, Anders Lindback, showed you where his right knee was gashed a couple of weeks ago while playing in Finland during the NHL lockout. He discussed the daily injection he takes to combat Adult Still's disease, which can cause fevers, rashes and joint pain.

Um, this is the hot young goalie the Bolts wanted, right?

Anders Lindback laughed.

"I'm fine," he said.

The stitches are out of his knee and he says it's good to go. And he says he hasn't had a flare-up of Adult Still's since he was first diagnosed and treated five years ago.

Still, it's a miracle Lindback's joints didn't stiffen in his first two NHL seasons _ from sitting on the bench for the Nashville Predators, watching workhorse and two-time Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne. That's how Lindback, 24, has only 38 games of NHL experience. Now there's a concern.

But here he is, 6 feet, 6 inches tall, one big bird, looking to soar as No. 1, sooner rather than later. The Lightning only had the worst goaltending in hockey last season, with a 3.34 goals against and .889 save percentage.

Dwayne Roloson is gone, Mathieu Garon is back, but Lindback, here by trade, is supposed to be the answer. Lockout ended, he might be the key to a Bolts rebound and a long-term solution, at last, for a club that has tried a league-high 18 men in net since Nikolai Khabibulin left after the 2004-05 lockout,

And the kid wants the job.

"That's what I've worked hard for, that was my goal all the time," Lindback said "It was a tough situation. Pekka Rinne was playing awesome. He wanted to play every game. It was tough for me to get games. But I learned a lot. I'm really excited to get the chance to prove myself. I don't really care that much about what people say or think, because I think the most pressure I get is from myself, because I want to prove myself so badly."

He's long and lanky, all arms and legs, but there's more there, and he had a 2.33 goals against and .914 save percentage in Nashville to prove it. He was no match for the veteran Rinne, who started 137 regular-season games and all of the Predators' playoff games in Lindback's two seasons there.

Lindback still had moments. As a rookie, his first career start came just two games into the 2010-11 season, after Rinne was injured in the season-opener. So Lindback got his shot _ in raucous Chicago, against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

He won. Soon after that, he was in net at the Forum against the Lightning. He won. He stopped 42 of 45 shots. Lightning coach Guy Boucher met with media after and here's about the first thing he said:

"That was their back-up ."

Lindback doesn't want to be a back-up here. Neither does Garon. Boucher says he'll use both men, and urges some patience when it comes to Lindback:

"He's a young, promising goaltender, and how many games do we give him and how much pressure do we want to put on him … we're not expecting him to be a savior, we just want him to come in and develop at his pace. The rest will take care of itself."

Anders Lindback and Victor Hedman are friends. They played for Sweden in international competitions. Lindback is living in a garage apartment at Hedman's house.

"I'm his pool guy," Lindback joked.

The two see eye to eye and not just because they're both 6-6.

"You're going to like him," Hedman said. "He's confident in net and that comes through to you when you play in front of him. He stops those pucks and makes those idiot saves you don't think he can make it. He's tall, but he moves around, has good form. He looks small in there, so smooth, so solid in net."

"It's been a good learning process, but I'm ready to taker the next step, I feel like," Lindback said.

He has only complaint since hitting town. It's his host, Hedman.

"He's two years younger, so he's a kid," Lindback said with a grin. "We need to get the gas going. We don't have any warm water in the house."

Not to worry _ the heat will be turned up real soon.

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