TAMPA – The Lightning staff had no time to hit the malls to return Christmas gifts.
Instead, folks were busy recalling D Mike Lundin and G Riku Helenius from AHL Norfolk, pressed into remaking the lineup before Saturday night’s 4-3 win against Atlanta.
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C Jeff Halpern and LW Todd Fedoruk, who suffered lower-body injuries Wednesday against the Flyers, were placed on injured reserve. And G Antero Niittymaki was out with wife Miina, who gave birth to a girl, Alina Josefina, about 7 p.m. Saturday.
“There’s opportunities for other guys,” coach Rick Tocchet said before the game, adding that neither Halpern nor Fedoruk are expected to need more than treatment and rest. (They’re eligible to return Saturday but could be out for about two weeks.)
The trick is for the other guys to make whatever shot they get count, beginning with the 6-foot-2, 197-pound Lundin, 25, who appeared in four games a month ago. He appeared in 81 in 2007-08 (with six assists and a plus-3) but just 25 last season. This season he leads Norfolk’s defensemen in assists (14) and points (16).
“We need some more puck movement back there, and he’s someone who might be able to supply us with that,” Tocchet said. “We’ve got to find some offense from the back end.”
Lundin, home in Minnesota for the holiday break when he got the call, filled that need. He scored his first career goal (in 111 NHL games) in the second period off a give-and-go with C Vinny Lecavalier.
“It felt very good. Very relieved. A lot of emotion,” Lundin said. “I’m just glad we won, too, so I can be happy about it.”
Helenius, 5-7 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .896 save percentage for Norfolk, has appeared in one game for the Lightning, relieving Mike Smith on Jan. 30 in a 6-1 loss to the Flyers.
Speaking of opportunities: RW Steve Downie, who has been mainly on the third and fourth lines, was moved to the second with Lecavalier and LW Alex Tanguay.
“I’ve got an opportunity to step up a line or two. It’s going to be exciting for me,” he said before the game.
Tocchet said that when Downie has had chances with one of the top lines, his game has suffered.
“Sometimes, when he plays with muckers, he plays better,” Tocchet said. “So we have to keep reminding him to play his style and not overpass or try to be fancy.”
Downie scored Tampa Bay’s first goal Saturday, his seventh of the year, off an assist from Lecavalier.
Odds and ends: RW Marty St. Louis appeared in his 346th consecutive game. That’s the sixth-longest active streak in the NHL. D Matt Walker, on injured reserve dating to Dec. 18, was eligible to play but didn’t. He’s day to day. Members of the Auburn Tigers, in town to play Northwestern in the Outback Bowl on Friday, were in the crowd.
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