CHICAGO — Mike Kostka never played a game with the Lightning, but he is part of the team’s lore.
The 28-year-old defenseman, who will make his debut for Chicago on Saturday, was part of Tampa Bay’s minor league team record run in 2011-12 while with Norfolk in the American Hockey League. Acquired from Florida in a trade midway through the season, Kostka was a mainstay on the blue line as the Admirals won a North American team record 28 consecutive wins on the way to a Calder Cup championship.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of something like that, it was that incredible in terms of the record, the way that that was going it was something that we didn’t even know how it happened,’’ Kostka said. “When the season ending it was like “Holy (cow)”. You have different levels of goals and achievements and my goal was to make it to the NHL and play here, which I’m very proud of, but at the same time you never forget about an experience like that which really did help propel me forward.’’
Kostka played last season with Toronto following the end of the lockout and landed a spot with Chicago this season. Many of the players which Kostka played with in Norfolk - Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik, Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Alex Killorn - are now on the Lightning roster while the head coach of that team, Jon Cooper is now behind the Tampa Bay bench.
“I was really fortunate to be traded in that organization a few years ago and be a part of that special team in Norfolk,’’ Kostka said. Cooper “is a really knowledgeable guy, he knows the game. He can be pretty strict at times but he also knows how to have fun with the guys so he has a really good balance with that, especially with the group that we had there, a lot of young guys.
“I can’t say a bad word about them as much as I would like to.’’
Good to go
Lightning D Sami Salo will return to the lineup after missing the season opening game in Boston on Thursday with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
Salo was a late scratch on Thursday after he took part in the morning skate. The veteran defenseman also missed practice on Friday to undergo some testing, which all came back negative.
“It’s just something that came up in the last couple of days, we don’t know where, so for precautionary reasons we stayed off,’’ Salo said. “Everything got checked out so it’s all good.’’
Nuts and Bolts
C Nate Thompson celebrated his 29th birthday on Saturday. A message on the team’s white board in the Lightning locker room stated “Happy Birthday Nate’’... C Tom Pyatt, Barberio and Aulie are scheduled to be scratched on Saturday. ... G Ben Bishop will make his first start in net after Anders Lindback started Thursday in Boston.