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Ramo now, but in future...
The Lightning wants to find out if the 21-year-old goaltender is the long-term answer.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published January 8, 2008
NEW YORK - There is an interesting dynamic going on with the Lightning and rookie goaltender Karri Ramo.
The team believes it can overcome a stretch in which it has lost seven straight and 10 of 11 and still make the playoffs for a fifth straight season. And it believes playing Ramo as a de facto No.1 over Johan Holmqvist gives it the best chance.
But there is another narrative here, one with as many consequences for the future.
As coach John Tortorella on Monday said about last month's call-up of Ramo from AHL Norfolk, "We felt it was going to improve us now. But the big question is, 'Where is it going to go?' This is the beginning to really finding that solution at that position."
In other words, is Ramo, 21, the answer to the goaltending woes that have plagued the Lightning for a third straight season?
Tampa Bay's brass will evaluate that the rest of the season. It is part of what seems like an undeclared quasi-rebuilding process that includes bringing along an extremely young defense that is struggling but, presumably, could grow and be part of a cornerstone with a promising young goalie.
First, though, Tampa Bay must figure out if Ramo has what it takes to be a No.1. And the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Finn, after a one-game rest, is expected in net tonight against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"I don't feel any pressure about it," Ramo said of the process. "This is why you play the game, to be in a position to make a difference. There's no goalie in this league that wouldn't want to be in my shoes. For a young guy like me, it's the first time. But there is a first time for everything. You just have to go out there and play."
Ramo has played well.
His stats aren't blazing - 1-4-1 in seven games, a 3.25 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage. But he has had just one bad game; one bad period, actually, Thursday against the Canadiens when he allowed three goals on nine shots in a 6-3 loss.
"He has the proper mind-set to learn from it and let things slide off and get ready for the next game," Tortorella said. "That's the proper swagger to have. He has a different type of swagger I really like about him."
Ramo is not afraid to self-assess. He took the blame for the loss at Montreal. He said studying video shows he is jumping around too much in net.
By holding his ground and letting opponents make the first move, Ramo said he can limit the gaps at which they can shoot.
"This is the thing every player wants, to challenge themselves," Ramo said. "It's a great spot but at the same time there's no time for learning, so I have to realize that. All you want to do is go out there and give your best."
It is easy to believe Ramo hasn't shown his best, though he has been better than Holmqvist and Marc Denis, who combined for a league-worst .879 save percentage.
"So no way is this a give-up," Tortorella said of the season. "We think this is an improvement right now."
Injuries: Tampa Bay - Dan Boyle, D, wrist; Ryan Craig, C, (knee); Michel Ouellet, RW, (shoulder) are out. New York - Martin Straka, C, (concussion) is out; Brendan Shanahan, RW, (knee) is questionable.
Key statistics: The third of four meetings this season. The Rangers lead 2-0 including a 3-1 win Oct.29 at MSG . ... The Lightning has lost seven straight and 10 of 11. ... RW Marty St. Louis has goals in three straight games. ... Tampa Bay has lost three straight at the Garden while being outscored 12-2. ... The Lightning is 3-for-30 on the power play in its past 10 games. ... The Rangers, on a 0-2-1 streak, are 1-for-14 on the power play in their past three.