Stamkos likely to overtake Crosby in scoring

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay is a pretty good bet to overtake Penguins center Sidney Crosby in the NHL scoring race sometime soon.

He entered the Lightning's game against the Penguins Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with 26 goals and 24 assists, putting him six points behind Crosby.

Given that Crosby is out indefinitely because of a broken jaw, that gap should continue to shrink.

Nonetheless, Stamkos said after the Lightning's game-day skate that passing Crosby is not a priority.

"If it happens, it happens," he said. "If not, it doesn't. It's not something I'm losing sleep over."

Had Crosby not been injured, Stamkos probably wouldn't have had much of a shot at the Art Ross Trophy, considering the frequency with which Crosby was piling up points. Nonetheless, Stamkos volunteered that having Crosby sidelined is not something he likes, regardless of how it opens up the scoring race.

"Obviously, you hate to see Sid out of the game, especially with what he's done after missing so much time the last couple of years," he said. "It looks like he came back even better than he was, if that was possible."

Another pointless exercise

Penguins winger Tanner Glass entered the Tampa Bay game the same way he had the 40 that preceded it: Without a point.

It appeared for a while Tuesday night that his offensive drought finally had ended as Glass was awarded an assist on a Beau Bennett goal midway through the third period, but Glass said he figured immediately that it was going to be taken away.

"I heard [the public-address announcement] on the bench, but it wasn't mine to begin with," he said. "I figured they would [change it].

"I talked to [defensemen Deryk Engelland, who ended up with the assist] and he said, 'You can have it.' I said, 'I might keep it. If it was [point No. 2], I might give it back, but since it's [the first], I might keep it.' But they got it right."

No rest for Iginla

Coach Dan Bylsma made the game-day skate Thursday optional, and seven veterans -- defensemen Mark Eaton, Brooks Orpik and Douglas Murray and forwards Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and Matt Cooke -- stayed off the ice.

Conspicuous by his presence was 35-year-old winger Jarome Iginla, who fits the mold of veterans who generally sit out practices and skates that aren't mandatory.

"Normally, I don't do a ton of optionals, but I had a new stick, so I wanted to get out and feel it," Iginla said. "But also, every day, I'm feeling a little better, feeling a little more comfortable, so I want to keep building on that."

Things are great for Nate

Tampa Bay center Nate Thompson had a chance to sell his services on the open market this summer, but opted instead to re-sign with the Lightning last month.

He is versatile and gritty, although not particularly gifted -- he entered the game against the Penguins with seven goals and five assists in 37 games -- and could have been pretty attractive to clubs looking to fill a blue-collar role. Thompson, though, said he accepted a four-year, $6.4 million offer to remain in Tampa because of a commitment he shares with the franchise.

"When you're with an organization for a long time, to be with it for a lot longer, there's something to be said for that," he said. "You're appreciated. Management has believed in me since I've been here and, obviously, they've shown a lot of confidence in me, signing me to a four-year contract. I want to be part of the solution."

Tip-ins

Bylsma said defenseman Paul Martin, recovering from hand surgery, has begun skating on his own, but that the original 4- to 6-week time frame for him to be out of the lineup has not changed. ... The Penguins scratched defensemen Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo and forwards Joe Vitale and Dustin Jeffrey.

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