Halfway through the season and the Tampa Bay Lightning are liking what they see in veteran forward, Valtteri Filppula.
Thursday marks Val playing his old team for the first time in his new home arena since the Lightning signed him in the summer of 2013. Previously, the teams met in Detroit on November 9th.
“I wouldn’t call it extra motivation, but it’s definitely different to play against them,” Filppula said after the morning skate Thursday. “There are a lot of good friends over there and I played there a long time, so it doesn’t feel like a normal game.”
In eight seasons playing with Detroit, the Fin came to Tampa with ninety-two goals and one-hundred-forty assists, it is going to be different for him to face the team where he got his start, and a Stanley Cup in 2008. With the Lightning he has ten goals, ten assists, and is an integral part of the team while Steven Stamkos is out with his broken tibia.
“We’d be in big trouble without him,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the player. Currently the Lightning are fourth in the Atlantic and fifth overall in the eastern conference.
“Coming here has been good. It’s been a lot of fun,” Val said. “I feel like we have a good team and we’ve been playing really well; so far so good.”
He owes much of that to fellow teammate and captain, Martin St. Louis.
“Obviously, with Stamkos being hurt he’s the guy we count on to carry the load up the middle,” St. Louis said. “He’s a big addition to the team. He has a pretty high hockey IQ and he’s fun to watch.”
Filppula stays close with his old teammates, whom he met up with for dinner Wednesday night. The team misses him, but they are happy to see his success in Tampa. Both Valtteri and his Red Wing teammates enjoyed their time catching up.
Thursday will be the second time Filppula goes up against his old team. The Lightning and the Red Wings met in Detroit on Nov. 9, with the Lightning collecting a 3-2 win.