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Brett Connolly given opportunity in wake of Steven Stamkos injury

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

In the wake of Steven Stamkos’ devastating injury on Monday, there was a lot of fallout. It’s never easy to watch anyone get hurt like Stamkos did, and it reminds us that players are people first. The Tampa Bay Lightning were right back at it on Tuesday though, facing the Montreal Canadiens in a tough matchup immediately following the Stamkos ordeal.

One of the first questions to emerge as Tampa’s All-World sniper was being stretchered off the ice: Who will fill his spot as the team’s No. 1 center?

There wasn’t a clear-cut answer. The easy fix seemed to be to stick Valtteri Filppula in the spot to see how he performed. He never did quite pan out as a top-end center for the Detroit Red Wings though, and he’s had success as the second-line pivot this year. The Lightning appeared to finally give their answer as they shifted Brett Connolly to center and put him between Martin St. Louis and Alex Killorn.

Connolly hasn’t quite lived up to his draft-day billing yet, but he’s only 21-years-old. When he was selected with the sixth-overall pick in 2010, Connolly was tabbed as an electric offensive talent that could make dangerous plays out of thin air. With only six goals in 80 NHL games and one tally this season, that may be tough to see.

Good players have a tendency to elevate their games when it’s needed the most however. The Lightning need more from Connolly now, and he’s not unaware of that fact. A few goals here and there, and Tampa could have a new folk hero in the youngster.

While he’s still a work in progress in the defensive zone, the offensive talent is coming out of Connolly’s ears. Connolly scored 46 goals in his last 59 games in the WHL and has the talent necessary to be an effective stop gap with Stamkos out of the lineup. It’s tough to go out on the ice and simple replace a guy like Stamkos, but Connolly did an admirable job last night against the Habs.

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Tags: Brett Connolly NHL Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning