Martin St. Louis seems certain to be remembered fondly years from now in Tampa for his multiple personal accolades and the role he played in helping the Lightning win the 2004 Stanley Cup.
Presently, though, fans still may feel uneasy about St. Louis demanding a trade in March after 12 1/2 seasons in Florida.
He returns to Tampa on Wednesday night for the first time since the deal with the New York Rangers, who will be seeking some revenge after a blowout defeat nine days ago.
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St. Louis won three Lady Byng and two Art Ross trophies and was named league MVP in 2003-04, when the Lightning won their only championship. He felt snubbed last season, though, when Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman didn’t place St. Louis on Canada’s initial Olympic roster when selecting the team.
Although St. Louis ended up winning a gold medal as an injury replacement, the relationship became fractured. On March 5, the Lightning sent their all-time leader in points to the Rangers in a trade for Ryan Callahan.
St. Louis acknowledged the fact that he may not receive a warm reception in his return, though Tampa Bay has plans to play a video tribute some time during the first period.
"I am expecting the worst, but I’m hoping for the best," St. Louis said. "Obviously it’s weird to go past the (Lightning) dressing room and not make a left turn in it, but I’ve moved on and I think (Wednesday) is going to be special for me to play here.
"I know some people are not happy with the decisions I made, and I get it, but I look in the mirror and know I gave my heart and soul for this franchise. It was just time to move on, and I am happy where I am now."
In his second season as Lightning coach, Jon Cooper knows St. Louis’ history with the club, but he’s more focused on Tampa Bay (14-6-2) trying to earn back-to-back victories after it beat Minnesota 2-1 on Saturday.
"I don’t know how he’s going to be greeted. And I can’t say I agree or disagree with the way he’s greeted," Cooper said. "People should remember what he did for this organization, because he did a lot of great things. After that, I think he should be treated like a visiting opponent.
"He’s not playing for us anymore. He’s playing for someone else."
St. Louis scored in his first game against his former team, a 5-1 loss Nov. 17, as Callahan had two goals in his return to Madison Square Garden – his first matchup with his former club. The Rangers (9-7-4) have won two straight – both shutouts – since that contest, the most recent a 5-0 win over Montreal on Sunday that included a goal and an assist from St. Louis.
He has three goals and two assists during a four-game point streak to bring him within two of 1,000 points for his career. St. Louis has been back at right wing since the return of Derek Stepan on Nov. 8 after filling in for the injured center during his absence.
"I’ve played my whole life on the wing," St. Louis said. "Sometimes you’re put in a position you’re not used to and you try to do it for the better of the team, but I’m definitely more comfortable on the wing."
Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t at his best in the first meeting with Tampa Bay, but he tied for the NHL lead by earning his fourth shutout against Montreal.
Ben Bishop, who faced only 16 shots Nov. 17, has allowed two or fewer goals in six of his last seven starts. He’s won all five career starts against the Rangers with a 0.60 goals-against average and two shutouts.