Morning Skate in Tampa: Stralman's Test, Allen's Debut

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

Twitter

Defenseman Anton Stralman, who was hurt during Friday night's 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, tested his sore left hand and wrist at Sunday's morning skate in Tampa, but was ruled out of the game tonight. With Stralman missing his first game of the season, rookie Conor Allen will take his place in the lineup and and make his NHL debut.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought, felt alright, but not as good as it needed to be if I was going to play tonight," said Stralman, whose hand and wrist were taped to provide support. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow and hopefully I can play in Florida (on Tuesday) against the Panthers."

Stralman explained that he was injured during the first period Friday when he attempted a poke check on Alex Ovechkin, only to have Ovechkin's shot shot jam back into him, hurting his wrist and hand in the process. The Swedish defenseman said "I felt it right away" and was forced out of the game. X-rays were taken and proved negative.

After not practicing Saturday, Stralman was hopeful he might be able to play against the Lightning tonight. That, obviously, will not be the case now.

"I went out there to see where I was at," explained Stralman. "It's not something that hurts all the time, it's more in the movements from game situations you'd be in. I wanted to test it, and I was really surprised it felt as good as it did. Just not good enough."

The 23 year-old Allen, whose father has flown in from Chicago to see tonight's game, will take Stralman's spot; and he admitted to a case of nervous excitement following the morning skate.

"It's exciting, this is what you play hockey for," offered Allen, who went to dinner Saturday night with team leaders Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, and Dan Girardi. "Right now I feel fine, it's just the morning skate, but once the building fills up and they turn the jumbotron on that could change."

Head coach Alain Vigneault said to expect a lot of "mixing and matching" among his defense pairings Sunday night. Stralman is a second pair defenseman, logging 20 minutes a game, so it will take a group effort to fill his role, which includes vital time spent on the team's second penalty kill unit, as well.

Michael Del Zotto played more than 24 minutes against Washington, handling the bulk of the Stralman's responsibilities, but John Moore and Justin Falk will need to step up this evening, too.

"We have quite a few younger players, whether it's Moore or Del Zotto or Conor Allen stepping into our lineup, and we need more from those guys," stated the head coach. "They'll have increased responsibility and bigger minutes against probably top-end players, so they have to do a good job for us."

Another defenseman not in the mix tonight, but who could soon be back in the lineup is Marc Staal. After taking part in his first full team practice Saturday, Staal again took part in a morning skate Sunday. Afterwards he said that it is not out of the realm of possibility he could play in Sunrise against the Panthers on Tuesday. Having passed all of his concussion-related tests, all that stands in the way of Staal's return is improved conditioning as tonight will mark the tenth straight game he will miss.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************

A seriously focused Henrik Lundqvist did not have much to say to reporters following the morning skate. Lundqvist offered that he needed to play better and was looking forward to making his first start in four games when the Rangers face the Lightning tonight.

Lundqvist's last game in this building--the Tampa Bay Times Forum--did not go so well. He surrendered four goals through two periods of play before being lifted in what turned out to be a 5-0 loss on November 25th. All in all it was a bad night for the entire team.

Justin Falk said, "You don't want a bad taste to be left in your mouth, so we want a much better effort tonight."