Ekman Fairing Well
In his latest stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nils Ekman appears to be doing something right. Not only has he stayed with the club since his call up in mid-January, but he has also seen time on the top line with Captain Vincent Lecavalier.
“When you are playing with players as good as I am right now, sooner or later I have to score,” Ekman, who has 6 goals so far this season, explained.
That theory hardly explains his 22 goals and 14 assists in 33 games with Detroit (IHL) this season though.
Questions arose last season, when Ekman, who was the IHL Rookie of the Year, couldn’t seem to carry his minor league success over to the NHL. That question mark is slowly fading. Ekman has 10 points in 24 games so far this season. His six goals, tie him for 9th place in scoring on the team.
Ekman has also seen time on the power play and penalty killing units. He has goals from each to show. He is one of only 5 Bolts to score shorthanded.
Ekman is not reading too much into his improved play. “I kept on working hard and obviously things are going better for me now.”
But he does admit there is a different feel this time around. “It’s easier to play here this time. I feel more confidant and self-confidence is a big part of the game.”
Ekman is the type of player that thrives on ice time. By the looks of things as long as he does what is asked of him, he will continue getting his. “He is getting a chance offensively,” explained Head Coach John Tortorella. “He is learning that if he is not playing the way we want him to play, he will lose some of his ice time.”
For Ekman more ice time = more goals = an extended stay in sunny Tampa Bay.
Defenseman Ben Clymer, was moved to center during Detroit’s road victory over Grand Rapids, but found himself back on the blueline when the Vipers returned home to face Orlando. After a sub-par showing in the Vipers 3-0 loss, which obviously was not seen in Tampa, Clymer received a phone call and a plane ticket to join the big club in Philly. Clymer was a healthy scratch against the Flyers, but played in the Bolts 5-4 loss to Buffalo the next night, centering Stan Drulia and Ryan Johnson on the forth line.
Management considered moving Clymer to forward during training camp, but decided against it at the time. It is uncertain whether the move will be permanent, but it is unlikely.
After a disappointing season, defenseman Paul Mara was reassigned to the IHL. In four games since his demotion, Mara has 2 power play goals and 3 assists. This could be the break the 21 year-old needs to get himself back on track.
With the additions of Adrian Aucoin and Grant Ledyard, sweaters aren’t exactly being handed out to defensemen. Mara will have to step it up and prove his worth if he expects to make it back to Tampa Bay.
Sheldon Keefe was also reassigned after spending most of the season in Tampa. He will be much better served playing 15-20 minutes a night, as opposed to the five he was seeing.
Samuel St. Pierre was reassigned from Detroit to Johnstown of the ECHL. St. Pierre has struggled most of the season, and had only 11 points in 51 games.
On the Trade Front
Defenseman Maxim Galanov was sent to Toronto for Left Winger Konstantin Kalmikov. Kalmikov, a 22 year old, appeared in 47 games with St. John’s, Toronto’s AHL affiliate. He has 7 goals, 10 assists and 8 penalty minutes this season.
The Lightning and Vipers both currently hold a 16-38-6 record
Tampa Bay Lightning
After losing seven straight games following the All-Star break, the Bolts are 1-1-1 in their last 3 outings, which includes a home win over St.Louis, scoreless tie in Philly and a 5-4 loss to Buffalo.
The Vipers finally snapped a 14 game losing streak with a 2-1 win at Grand Rapids on February 18th. They were shutout by Orlando when they returned home on the 22nd, but came back strong to defeat Cleveland and Orlando on consecutive nights, collecting 4 of 6 possible points in the 3 game homestand.
The Chiefs ended the week just three points out of the final playoff spot in the Northern Conference. They will take a few days off then return for 3 games in as many nights at home. They currently hold a 23-28-6 record.