The Lightning will turn to new G Anders Lindback right out of the gate, giving the 24-year-old the start in goal to make his Tampa Bay debut in the season opener against Washington.
Lindback was acquired from the Nashville Predators in June. Despite only 38 games of experience in two years playing behind Pekka Rinne, Tampa Bay will look to Lindback to stabilize their goaltending, which has been an area of weakness throughout most of the past eight years since the departure of Nikolai Khabibulin.
During the lockout, Lindback played in Finland for two months, which gave him an edge in the decision over veteran Mathieu Garon.
"I feel that he's played overseas, and I want to see him, too,'' head coach Guy Boucher said. "I've seen him in scrimmages, but now I think it's time for him to be thrown out there, and if the pool is cold or hot you have to jump in it.''
Boucher also intends to dress seven defensemen tonight, something he likes to incorporate throughout the season. That means Brendan Mikkelson is expected to be a healthy scratch, along with forwards Dana Tyrell and Pierre-Cedric Labrie. Keith Aulie will serves as the seventh defenseman.
"I love to do that, and last year we had injuries on D and we didn't have the quality on defense that we do this year,'' Boucher said. "I don't want to do it always, when we are on the road or the opponent, it really just depends on who we are playing and which of our guys are available.''
Rookie LW Cory Conacher said he had little trouble sleeping Friday night in anticipation of making his NHL debut on Saturday against Washington. With his parents and siblings, along with his girlfriend and other friends, in town to be on hand for his first NHL game, Conacher had plenty to keep him busy.
But he knows emotions will be stirring when he takes the ice for his first shift.
"There are going to be so many emotions going into tonight's game that it's going to be important for me to control them somewhat and act like I've been in this position before,'' Conacher said. "I want to be comfortable, but not overly comfortable and just move my feet and do things I know how to do. It's going to be a fun experience that first shift, and even just walking to the rink is going to be a fun experience.''
First Time on the Job
When former Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet reached out to Adam Oates before the 2009-10 season, Oates sort of had a feeling he wanted to get back into hockey. Oates was brought to Tampa as a consultant during training camp and eventually hired as a full-time assistant before the start of the season. The Hall of Famer, who was inducted into the Hall in November, spent one year with Tampa Bay and the past two with New Jersey.
Saturday Oates will make his head coaching debut behind the bench for Washington facing off again many of the players he got his coaching start against.
"That crossed my mind, yes,'' Oates said. "To see Marty (St. Louis) and Vinny (Lecavalier) and Stammer (Steven Stamkos) and Bugsy (Ryan Malone), is kind of ironic.''
Oates said he knew from day one with Tocchet that getting into coaching was something he wanted to do.
"I came here kind of optimistic about how I was going to feel,'' Oates said about coming to Tampa for his first camp. "It was something where I went, "Oh year, this is what I've been missing in my life.' And it's been the next challenge of my life to try to pass on your knowledge and learn how to coach and become a coach.''
Getting a Check-Up
Lightning first round draft pick in 2011, D Slater Koekkoek, was getting a tour of the team facilities on Saturday, but it wasn't to get ready for a game.
"Slater is in Tampa to have his shoulder examined by team doctors,'' Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman said.
Koekkoek underwent shoulder surgery last season and missed most of the year, which did not deter Tampa Bay from using the 10th overall pick to select the 6-foot-2, 186 pound blue liner. Koekkoek took a hit to the shoulder early in the season while playing for Peterborough in the Ontario Hockey League. Though everything checked out, his play has been limited since being traded to Windsor earlier this month.