Remember D Shane O'Brien? You know, he of the 154 penalty minutes, 21 points and a classic punch-up with Carolina's Andrew Ladd last season.
Since his trade to Vancouver after the first game of this season, the Lightning have trotted out 17 other defensemen. Ask his former Lightning teammates and it's obvious O'Brien left a sizable void.
"He's one of those guys that everyone misses," Jeff Halpern said. "We miss him in the locker room and we miss his toughness and his abilities on the ice. He was a funny guy who's one of those guys that make it fun everyday to go the rink."
Given the fact Tampa Bay's defense looks more like a who's who of the AHL's Norfolk Admirals, it makes you wonder what might have been for both parties if the O'Brien trade never happened. After averaging more than 21 minutes a night with the Lightning, O'Brien is averaging 15 minutes per game in Vancouver and recently was a healthy scratch for two weeks.
"It's been an up-and-down year," O'Brien said. "From a personal aspect it's probably not where I thought I would end up minutes-wise and points-wise but ... maybe I'll look back at this year and realize it made me stronger mentally and physically."
On the bright side for O'Brien, at least his new team is still in the playoff hunt, and with Tampa Bay in town, it's clear there's a little extra incentive.
"I have a lot of good friends over there but at the same time they got rid of me ... and you always want to show them maybe they made a mistake," he said.
The talk after the Lightning finished their morning skate in Vancouver was still very much about the five straight games Tampa Bay has allowed 40 or more shots.
"I think continuity catches up to you and we have a lot of people in and out of the lineups and I think that has a lot do with it," Coach Rick Tocchet said. "Quite frankly you go through a stretch and some guys don't play as well ... guys are on their heels.
"There's a lot of combination and reasons and I think we've hit a stretch we're not sharp."
WHEW, THEY'RE OK
Vinny Lecavalier and Evgeny Artyukhin took part in Friday's morning skate and looked fine.
Artyukhin slammed into the boards Thursday in practice and looked to injure his knee but he said he feels good.
Lecavalier's heel seems to be a non-issue.