Lightning promotes two rookies
Callups send shock waves through a team disappointed in its sluggish start to the season.
By TOM JONES
Published October 20, 2005
ATLANTA - Just seven games into a season after winning the Stanley Cup, Lightning coach John Tortorella let it be known his leash on the team is as short as ever.
Disappointed and angry over the team's sluggish 3-2-2 start, Tortorella put his entire team on notice Wednesday by announcing that somebody - actually, two somebodies - will pay for that sluggish start.
Two popular veterans will sit out tonight's game in Atlanta, while two kids just up from the minors will get their first NHL ice time. Fourth-line regulars Chris Dingman and Martin Cibak will wear suits and sit in the press box, while rookies Evgeny Artyukhin and Nick Tarnasky will wear Lightning uniforms.
"If they do the job, they'll stay," Tortorella said. "If they don't, we'll try other people. We need to have a more consistent hunger within this hockey club."
For Dingman and Cibak, specifically, Tortorella said they are sitting for having "bad listening skills."
But the benchings go deeper than that. Sensing a lackadaisical commitment among their players, Tortorella and general manager Jay Feaster sent a strong message that no job is safe and no minutes on the ice are guaranteed.
Why, however, was it Dingman and Cibak who drew the short straws? Probably because the fourth line was on the ice Sunday in Washington for a tying goal during the third period of a game the Lightning eventually lost in a shootout. Just a few games after being praised by Tortorella for its hard work, the fourth line fell under Tortorella's wrath for, apparently, not sticking to its role as a defensive-first, energy line.
"No, they haven't (played well)," Tortorella said. "They have to play within themselves. That goes right back to bad listening skills."
On first glance, Wednesday's practice seemed to be just another ho-hum NHL practice, but the presence of the two new guys had everyone a little skittish.
"Things like this have been going in hockey for a long time," captain and 22-year NHL veteran Dave Andreychuk said. "This is nothing new. It has happened with every team I've been on. We're trying to find a spark."
Andreychuk, however, seemed a bit troubled that two players were singled out while the whole team is struggling. Also, if the team was winning, a couple teammates would not be punished tonight.
"I think we should all know we're in this together," Andreychuk said. "We're not leaving anybody out on the island by themselves. We're always together. We win together. We lose together. Calling guys up to put pressure on people is not the feeling we want around here."
Dingman and Cibak, who wore a different sweater than everyone else in practice to signify they were not a part of tonight's lineup, appeared to take the news of their demotions professionally. But that's not the same as saying they easily swallowed the news.
"Of course I took it (personally)," Dingman said. "I care about playing. I want to play."
But even he knew some changes were in the works.
"When it's not working," Dingman said, "you got to change something."
"We need to get started somehow or another," Andreychuk said. "Obviously the young guys provide energy."
It's that energy Tortorella hopes is contagious and filters through the rest of the team. He said both Artyukhin and Tarnasky bring a "hunger" to the team that is missing that fire in the belly.
"It's funny during the regular season how much hunger you need to compete," Tortorella said. "There is a whole different mind-set between playoff hockey and regular-season hockey. We need to get a more hungry team."