Friday afternoon was Wes Walz day at the Xcel Energy Center, as the Minnesota Wild held a tribute to the former Wild captain who was an original member of the franchise and spent the last seven seasons of his career with the Wild.
The Lightning assistant coach retired last Dec. 1 as the all-time franchise leader in games played with 438 and had 182 points (82 goals, 100 assists) in a Wild sweater.
A video tribute was held before the opening faceoff as Walz made his way down the Lightning bench and waved to the crowd. The team also put together a scrapbook from Walz's days with the Wild, which was presented to him by a pair of Minnesota season-ticket holders.
"It was emotional for me because I never really had a chance to say goodbye to the fans before I retired, so it was a great tribute from the fans," he said. "And the scrapbook is something that I will cherish the rest of my life. It's always nice when I'm an old fart sitting on a rocking chair with the grandkids running around, I'll be able to look back at some of those memories and I'll be very proud of them."
Walz's teenage son, Kelvin, accompanied his father on the trip and took part in the ceremony by announcing "Let's Play Hockey" before the opening puck drop.
NEW FACES: Tampa Bay recalled D Andrew Hutchinson from AHL Norfolk on Friday after he cleared recall waivers. Hutchinson has a goal and 13 assists in 20 games with the Admirals this season.
Hutchinson made his Lightning debut Friday afternoon, picking up a power-play assist late in the first period.
In addition to Hutchinson, RW Steve Downie, who was acquired from Philadelphia on Nov. 7, also made his Lightning debut wearing No. 9 and playing on the fourth line with LW Ryan Craig and C Adam Hall.
STATE OF HOCKEY: In addition to Walz's return to the Wild, several other Lightning players have ties to Minnesota hockey. D Mike Lundin hails from Burnsville, D Matt Smaby is from Minneapolis and attended Shattuck St. Mary's Prep School, RW Adam Hall lives and trains in Minnesota during the summer and played in 23 games with the Wild in 2006-07, and LW Ryan Malone played for St. Cloud St. from 1999-2003. Lightning general manager Brian Lawton also played for the Minnesota North Stars and started his sports agency based in Minneapolis.
NUTS AND BOLTS: LW Jason Ward cleared recall waivers Friday but is expected to be reassigned back to Norfolk. ... Smaby, who was called up Thursday from Norfolk, was a healthy scratch. ... D Marek Malik (lower body) was also scratched. ... Associate coach Mike Sullivan was behind the bench for Friday's game. ... Tampa Bay has allowed 30 or more shots on goal in 21 of 22 games this season. ... C Steven Stamkos played a season-high 20 minutes, 32 seconds.