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Tampa Bay Lightning

Ohlund returns from injury

afabrizio@tampatrib.com
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 08:53 PM
TAMPA -

Veteran D Mattias Ohlund returned to the lineup Monday against Colorado after missing seven games with an ankle/foot injury, and D Mike Lundin was reassigned to AHL Norfolk.

Ohlund missed more games than expected - he said it was difficult watching - but the Lightning had the luxury of not having to rush him back because of their depth on the blue line.

Lundin played well in four games, averaging 16:59 in ice time. But his contract status as a player who didn't have to clear waivers and two-way salary made him the obvious choice to clear a roster spot.

Tampa Bay still has eight defensemen, although Kurtis Foster also is playing some forward. Besides Ohlund and Foster, suiting up Monday night were Lukas Krajicek, Matt Walker, Andrej Meszaros, David Hale and Victor Hedman. Matt Smaby was a scratch and still hasn't played this season.

Coach Rick Tocchet reiterated that having extra NHL-ready defensemen in the organization is a "good problem to have," noting that many other blue lines have been decimated by injury, but he also said managing the roster is a challenge.

"Maybe somebody's got to get moved eventually," he said. "That's something we've got to figure out soon, because there are a lot of defensemen."

Holding their own

The Lightning have been getting some pop the past couple of weeks out of a line made up of Paul Szczechura, Steve Downie and James Wright.

Szczechura, who was promoted from AHL Norfolk last month after Drew Miller was waived, entered Monday's game with goals in his previous two games.

"Since I put them together, they've been a good young line," Tocchet said. "We've been tracking puck possession and zone time, and it seems like when they're not in the other team's end, it's neutral. It's never in our end for long."

The three forwards make up the Lightning's youngest line. Wright is 19, Downie is 22, and Szczechura turns 24 today.

"Yeah, and I have to kick those guys off the ice, too," Tocchet said. "Even in the morning skate. Those guys enjoy playing the game."

Taking wing

Tocchet also had praise for C Jeff Halpern, who has been playing wing on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay.

"I don't know if it's so much of a career change for him, but playing the wing, he has really upped his game," Tocchet said.

Tocchet said Halpern's disciplined play makes him a productive complement for Lecavalier and Tanguay.

"You want your skill players to take off once in a while, and he (Halpern) is your safety valve," he said. "It's nice to have that guy that can cover up some loose change on the ice for those guys."

Nuts and bolts

Tocchet began his coaching career at Colorado as an assistant in 2002 under Tony Granato. ... The Lightning players' wives and girlfriends will host a toy drive, benefitting Toys for Tots, on the west plaza of the Forum before Saturday's game against the Islanders and next Monday's game against the Capitals. Fans contributing a toy will receive two ticket vouchers valid for an upcoming home game.

Tony Fabrizio

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