BOSTON — A former first-round pick in his third full year of pro hockey, defenseman Matt Lashoff is finally getting a chance to skate a regular shift in the NHL.
Of course, he’s doing it for Tampa Bay not Boston, which selected him 22nd overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Lashoff and fellow former Boston prospect Martins Karsums are both getting a better opportunity to establish themselves at the game’s highest level ever since they were deal to the Lightning for Mark Recchi March 4.
Both will get a chance to send a message to the Bruins tonight at TD Bannorth Garden in the first match-up between the teams since the trade.
“I think when it happened, it was almost like a weight off my shoulders,” Lashoff said after his team’s morning skate today. “It felt, not so much relief, but I felt like something was lifted and I felt good. Coming down here, when I got on the ice, it was a little more confidence, a bit more pressure.”
Added Karsums: “It’s better to play consistently than being up and down all the time. I’m just happy to be here. Boston traded me and Tampa’s giving me a good chance to play in the NHL and show what I can do.”
Lashoff, in particular, has really taken on a major role for the Lightning. He has averaged 24:01 of ice time and recorded five assists in seven games, while Karsums has recorded just two assists in 12 games.
“It forces me to hold onto the puck a little bit, make plays,” said Lashoff about his increased ice time. “You get more into the game. It’s a good situation for me. It was tough leaving Boston — so many good people, so many good friends, something that I’ll never forget. It’s a great organization. But for myself coming in here, being able to get the opportunity to play a lot and get put in situations that I think I need to be put in, it’s working out for the best.”
Lightning interim head coach Rick Tocchet had the following to say about both players.
“(Lashoff’s) got some tools to be an NHL defenseman. He’s got a ways to go in that I think he’s not in great NHL shape. I think that’s by practicing a lot, playing a lot. But he moves the puck well. There’s definitely something there. This is big summer, as far training, for him to get himself ready for next year.
“(Karsums has) played a little bit better. I think the same thing with him, the same as Lash, I don’t know if their … in the NHL you’ve got to be in great shape and you’ve got really take a lot of reps by playing. We’re playing him like 12 minutes, trying to get him on Vinny‘s (Lecavalier) line a couple times to see what he’s got, but he hits. I like that he hits and he’s aggressive.”