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In Defense of the Cup Written by Laci Bloomers - October 24th, 2011

The Tampa Bay Lightning begin defense of the Stanley Cup this season with arguably more depth than they had during their sun in S7.  The club did a terrific job managing to resign every Free Agent they wanted to, while replacing star blue-liner Brian Rafalski, who retired unexpectedly after the playoffs.

Rafalski was the leader for this club last season, breaking team records for a defenseman with 65 assists and 83 points.  Miikka Kipruspff was Bolts win the Stanley Cup!also phenominol as he won 58 regular season games and rolled to the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

Kiprusoff will be looked upon to repeat something similar this coming season, especially come playoff time, if the Lightning expect to come anywhere near a repeat.

This year's club will have a lot of familiar faces, but some interesting additions could make them just as difficult to defeat as they were last season, when they won the Eastern Conference with a 60-16-6 record.

Meet your 2011 Tampa Bay Ligntning ... 

Jonathan Toews - Last season's runner up for the Conn Smythe trophy had career best totals in goals (34) and points (82) last season.  At 23 he has emerged with a brand new 4 years contract and a spot as the leader on this club. Toews has reached 30+ goals and 80+ points in each of the past 2 seasons and should be counted on to reach those totals again.

Matt Stajan - Stajan was brought over during the summer by the club provide a true 2nd line center, and he has fit in very well as he leads the club in preseason scoring thus far.  The 27 year old forward had career best totals last season, as he scored 23 goals and had 58 points with the Minnesota Wild.  The Lightning expect him to improve on those totals, and team insiders say he could flirt with 30 goals.

David Moss - A player the GM calls the prototypical team player, Moss will start this season at a new position as he will be moved to center.  Moss has been the epitome of consistnecy with this club since getting his break two seasons ago, scoring 44 goals and 112 points in the process.  Last season he potted 10 power play goals, a career best.

Manny Malholtra - Malholtra is known for his defensive game, and his prowess in the faceoff circle.  Signed as a free Agent in the offseason, he chipped in with 8 goals while only taking 1 minor penalty in Vancouver last season, while sporting a face-off win percentage over 60%.

Ryan Malone
- Malone was the biggest surprise in the line-up last season, as he bust out with a team leading 38 goals to go with 36 helpers.  Those figures topped his previous three years and should help him establish himself this season as a regular 30+ goal scorer.

Steve Sullivan - Sullivan overcame a rough start to last season to score 29 goals, falling just one short of his 4th consecutive 30 goal season.  With a half season in Tampa under his belt, the club looks for him to top 30 goals once again this season.

Brandon Prust - The 27 year old winger wil be embarking on his first full CMHL season after showing terrific improvments in Macon last season.  Prust has just 29 CMHL games under his belt, played in Boston 6 years ago.  He has shown this preseason that he is ready to play and he will have that chance on the club's 3rd line this season.

Mark Cullen - Cullen is a defensive specialist who won a spot last seaon and played his first full CMHL season with the Lightning.  He is not here to score goals, although his first and only goal last year (and in the CMHL so far) was a power play game winning goal!

Rick Nash
- The power forward was acquired before the start of last season by the club, and he responded with his best pro season since the early days.  Nash scored 35 goals and 75 points, finishing 2nd on the team in goals.  Adding 12 power play goals to that, he looks to get back to the 40 goal mark this season.

Jordan Eberle - Young 21 year old Eberle has been trying the last couple of seasons to crack this line-up, and this looks to be the year.  The fancy stickhandling phenom played with the leafs as an 18 year old, scoring 13 goals and 21 assists in 72 games.  He has spent the majority of the past 2 seasons in Macon, although he did dress in 5 playoff games during the club's Cup run.  The trading yesterday of Eric Fehr to the Flyers was facilitated to provide Eberle a spot in the line-up.

Blake Comeau - Given the opportunity to reacquire one time Lithtning winger Blake Comeau, GM Normoyle jumped at the chance.  Comeau scored a modest 10 goals last season after netting 9 the year before, however he has an offensive upside and a chance to earn Top 6 minutes playing with some other guys who can score.  The Lightning expect to see him flourish offensively while being his dependable self.

Jeff Halpern - Halpern is not going to go out and get you 20 goals, but he is a defensive stalwart who will fit nicely with Malholtra and Cullen on the energy line.  Very responsible in his own end.

Ed Jovanovski
- Affectionately known as "Jovo Cop", Jovanovski was picked up in the off-season to fill up some of hole created by Rafalski's departure.  Ed has scored 151 points over his last 3 seasons (49 of those with the Lightning 3 years ago), including a respectable 16 goals last year in Dallas.  He is tough to play with in his own end and will eat up Top pair minutes.

Brent Seabrook -The 27 year old rearguard is coming off a career year of 18 goals and 52 points.  Just acquired in a trade that saw Tomas Kaberle move on, he will be a top defenseman for this club this season.

Mark Giordano - Gio emerged as a cornerstone on the Lightning defense last season, scoring 14 goals and adding 26 assists, including 8 power play goals.  Is likely to get 1A minutes this season as he has developed into one of the most reliable blue-liners in the league.

Doug Murray - Murray is now in his 3rd season with the club.  he is not flahsy and doesn't score that much (32 goals in 331 career games) but he provides some muscle on the blueline and compliments his other defense partners.

Karl Alzner - 23 year old Karl Alzner is a defensive D-man who Tampa Bay fans are going to grow to love.  Alzner is set to make his CMHL debut this season after spending some time in Macon the past two years.  He could surprise and play Top 4 minutes, as he has spent much of preseason paired with Jovanovski.

Adam Pardy - Pardy is coming back after off-season surgery, but should be ready to go by the beginning of the season.  He may start the year in Macon with Noaln Baumgartner filling in, but expects to play with the Lightning unless he suffers a setback.  Pardy had 14 poiints and was a +6 last season, his rookie season in the CMHL.

Miikka Kiprusoff
- Kiprusoff capped off an All-Star season with a Conn Smythe performance in the playoffs, registering a dazzling 1.85 GAA.  His season was a pleasure to watch and he is fired up to lead his club to a 3rd Stanley Cup.

Mike Brodeur - Brodeur spelled Kipper off in 5 games last season, picking up a 2-1 record and a decent 2.40 GAA in releif.  He loks to have much the same role this season, and he is fine with that if it means another ring on his finger.

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