By Ken Peacock
The Lightning are struggling right now. Tampa Bay finds itself sitting in the bottom four of its division and in the bottom seven of the NHL. The injury bug has infected the lineup and Dwayne Roloson is struggling in-goal. There have been rumors of the lightning shopping for a goalie, but it looks like that might not happen until after the conclusion of the season. If the Lightning want a good goalie now they would have to put some prospects on the trading block. It doesn’t appear that Steve Yzerman is prepared to do that right now. Tampa Bay did make a few roster changes Friday. Could more changes be coming?
The Lightning’s battered defense has been bolstered up with the acquisition of 24-year-old defenseman Brendan Mikkelson from the Calgary Flames. Mikkelson, a former second-round draft pick by Anaheim in 2005, has played this season for the Abbottsford Heat in the AHL. In 33 games with the Heat, Mikkelson had three goals, 15 points and was plus-one. He is not considered an offensive defenseman, but gives the Lightning depleted defense corps some added depth.
“We felt we needed to get bigger on the blue line and I think he gives us a little more depth and he’s a real good skater,” Yzerman said. “I would say that skating might be his best strength.
“He can skate the puck up the ice, and I wouldn’t describe him strictly as an offensive-minded defenseman or a defensive-minded defenseman. I just think his game is as a guy who can skate the puck up. He makes a good first pass so he has the ability to move it.”
Calgary did not give him up for free. In order to get Mikkelson the Lightning had to give up a body as well. Tampa Bay traded 25-year-old center Blair Jones to complete the deal. Jones opened up the season with the Lightning before being returned to Norfolk of the AHL. He was recalled back to Tampa Bay shortly after the Injury to Martin St.Louis. Jones has had a career high two goals and four points in 22 games with the Lightning this year. Developing in the AHL, Jones was a fan favorite in Norfolk. While in Norfolk he appeared in 279 games scoring 69 goals, 116 assists for 185 points. While he will be missed in Norfolk the change of scenery may be good for Blair.
Tampa Bay made a few other moves on Friday. Brett Connolly rejoined the team after spending the past month on loan to Team Canada for the World Junior Championships. Defenseman Evan Oberg was returned to the Norfolk Admirals. Oberg has been accumulating the frequent flyer miles between Norfolk and Tampa Bay, but still has not been given his shot on NHL ice. With the loss of Jones, the Lightning recalled forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie from the Admirals.
Labrie, 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, has appeared in 29 games for the Admirals this season, recording six goals and 19 points with a plus-17 rating and 63 penalty minutes. Labrie is sixth in points, ranks third in plus/minus and ranks third in penalty minutes with the Admirals in 2011-12. He is also fourth in the AHL in plus/minus.
Labrie was originally signed to a Professional Tryout Contract with the Admirals in October of 2010 and signed a two-year AHL Standard Player’s Contract in December of 2010. He has played in 93 games with the Admirals over the past two seasons, and has recorded 13 goals and 45 points with 211 penalty minutes. The Lightning signed him to a two-year, two-way contract on December 29, 2011.