Dan Ellis Has High Hopes For Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Dan Ellis has a lot of faith in his new team. The Lightning goaltender, who signed a two year contract as a free agent in the offseason, believes this team can go all the way. “I think we have a chance to go all the way.” Ellis said. “If you look at the caliber of player in this dressing room, we’ve got some of the best players in the National Hockey League.”

It is confidence like that which has been missing from this team, and this organization in recent years. And it has started from the net out. One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Lightning post lockout has been the goaltending. And it was on Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman’s radar almost immediately. One of Yzerman’s first comments after he was hired was how his plan was to get a second NHL goaltender to join Mike Smith in net. That’s where Dan Ellis comes in.

Ellis appeared in 31 games for Nashville last year, posting a 15-13-1 record for the predators before losing his hold on the starting job to Pekka Rinne. His win loss record and .909 save percentage was the 2nd best of his career. His 77 goals against last season was a career best. To look at Dan Ellis is to look at a goaltender whose career is on the rise.

Ellis was drafted 60th overall, in the 2nd round, of the 2000 NHL entry draft by the Dallas Stars. When he played for the Stars minor league affiliate, the Iowa Stars, the second part of the duo was a goaltender by the name of Mike Smith. All these years later, the healthy competition going on between the two is good for both the goalies and the team. “Smith is a great guy.” Ellis said. “He has helped me adapt to the surroundings and people. He is an easy going guy that loves to take people under his wing so he has made the transition easy.”

One of the most important aspects of a hockey team is a goaltenders confidence. For Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher, Dan Ellis brings just that. “[Dan] has brought stability.” Boucher said. “We have two goaltenders that are able. If I start one or the other, I am confident that these guys can do the job.”

“I think we have a very confident group.” Ellis said. “I think the group is very well directed by the coaching staff and by our leadership. We are all moving in the same direction. We have all bought into a system that we believe in and when you have a group of guys going on the ice with one plan, you are destined to have success.”

For the Lightning to have success this year, both Dan Ellis and Mike Smith are going to be huge factors. Both goalies are going to be depended on to do something that has not happened since the cup run of 04. Solidify a position that has been below average for far too long.

Quick Jolts

– A shootout competition was held at the end of practice today with the last man to score having to grow a mustache for the next month. The unlucky one? Mike Vernace. He took it all in stride though. “I have [grown a mustache before], but it wasn’t pretty.” Vernace said.

– Still no indication officially who will get the nod in net against Montreal, although Dan Ellis is expected to start one of the two games.

– Nate Thompson was back at practice after taking Monday off. As expected, Mattias Ohlund did not skate.