Defenseman Lundin has career year

St. Petersburg Times (Florida) 
 
By: DAMIAN CRISTODERO
TIMES STAFF WRITER
 


TAMPA — D Mike Lundin is playing with a painful left foot that requires ice packs after every game and practice.


Still, Lundin has played some of his best hockey, and in three of five games entering Tuesday achieved personal records in minutes played.


“He’s arguably our best defenseman,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “He’s taken it to another level.”


Lundin’s story is well told. After playing 81 games with the Lightning in 2007-08 as a rookie, he spent most of 2008-09 with AHL Norfolk and started this season there as well.


But since his second callup, on Dec. 26, Lundin has proved he belongs.


It really took hold during a 2-1 victory over the Penguins on March 31, when Lundin played a career-best 29 minutes, 48 seconds. He set previous marks of 26:55 on March 30 against the Blue Jackets and 26:33 on March 25 against the Bruins.


“Your confidence grows with a game like that,” Lundin said of the Penguins game. “The coach has confidence in you, and you get the job done, you feel good.”


“His gapping is huge,” Tocchet said. “He does a nice job with his stick, and he’s in people’s faces.”


Lundin, 25, in the final year of his contract, had career highs of three goals, seven assists and 10 points entering Tuesday, and was minus-5 on a team with 44 fewer goals than it had allowed.


All with a very sore foot, hurt by a blocked shot.


“He’s playing in pain and his level of play is still up there,” Tocchet said. “It’s nice to see.”


MOVING PARTS: D Matt Lashoff and C Blair Jones were called up from Norfolk. Lashoff played, but Jones was scratched because he was up on an emergency basis to fill in for injured LW Ryan Malone and Malone decided to play. Malone (knee) missed 12 games after arthroscopic surgery.


NORFOLK DRAMA: Jones called Norfolk coach Jim Johnson “another player on the team who is leading us.”


So when Johnson was elevated to Lightning assistant on Feb. 24 after Wes Walz was fired by GM Brian Lawton, Jones said, “It was tough. We felt we had a great thing going. We were on fire, the hottest team in the league, so to lose Jim like that was deflating.”


Johnson went 13-2-2 with Norfolk after taking over for fired Darren Rumble. The team was 6-6-2 without him, and Johnson returned this week to help the Admirals’ run at the playoffs.


“He wants it bad, and so do the guys,” Jones said.


ODDS AND ENDS: Malone, who played for the U.S. Olympic team, said he will not play in the world championship next month because wife Abby is expecting their second child, a boy, tentatively named Cooper James, on April 18. … Victor Hedman (hip flexor) might be able to play Thursday against the Senators.


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