Tampa, FL (WGR 550) -- Ville Leino did stay on the bench for the first game of the season, but he cracked a rib in the first period of the first game.
He made his return tonight for just his 10th game in two years. He got healthy just in time with Buffalo short on forwards. That’s thanks to the NHL suspensions of Pat Kaleta and John Scott. A roster spot opened when Mike Weber got a thumb injury blocking a shot in Florida.
Leino started on the fourth line with Drew Stafford and Cody McCormick. He only had four shifts for 1:44 in the first period and most of that came early before the penalties. He had a rough time on his first play trying to get the puck out on the wall. He gave up a point shot on that one, but a few minutes later we saw a nice play where he dove at a Lightning player putting him offside.
Other observations from the first, Lightning coach Jon Cooper is allowing Steven Stamkos to play against Marcus Foligno who handled him five-on-five in Buffalo. In the first period he also did well, even picking off a Stamkos pass and sending Steve Ott in on a breakaway. I would have Stamkos out against Cody Hodgson every chance I got.
Ryan Miller made 11 first period saves while Ben Bishop had six.
Again with three penalties in the first 8:03 of the second period, Leino hardly played.
When he did get on the ice he made a difference. Leino got the puck in front, lost it then stayed with it with hustle and got it back feeding Cody McCormick off the post. McCormick went cross crease with a perfect pass to Brian Flynn for a wide open tap in.
Right after that Leino forced a turnover in the neutral zone starting an attack into the Tampa Bay zone.
After the second period Leino played seven shifts for 4:43 and is a plus one. He has also been credited with one hit.
The score after two is 1-1, but Buffalo has to stay out of the penalty box. Four Tampa Bay power plays in the second alone with 1:01 left in a Henrik Tallinder penalty to start the third.
The problem with the penalties is many have been of the dumb variety and in the offensive zone.
In the third Leino again was showing good hustle. Since they scored a goal, Ron Rolston kept Flynn with him and McCormick.
Twice Leino caused neutral zone turnovers. He didn’t play much, finishing with 9:56 of ice time on 13 shifts, but I liked what I saw. If Leino continues to play like that, I think he can help this team.
"It was okay," Leino said about his return. "I didn't have a lot of shifts in the first or second. In the third, I got more so I started to feel a little better. I got little bumps out there, a couple of hits, so, a little better."