After a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on April 10, the Tampa Bay Lightning players learned that assistant coach Wayne Fleming had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. As the team was preparing to move from regular-season mode to focusing on the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, Fleming was facing his biggest battle.
Tuesday, close to a month since the team found out about the news, Fleming underwent eight hours of surgery to remove the tumor. As Tampa prepares for Tuesday night's Game 3 against the Washington Capitals, Fleming's fight has become a source of inspiration for the team.
Lightning forward Steven Stamkos told Brian Compton of NHL.com that despite his absence, Fleming is still thinking hockey:
"I think we use it as inspiration," Stamkos said. "Flemmer's been a huge part of our team since Day One. We're obviously aware of the situation. When we were made aware from the get-go, it was just simply inspiration. Everyone is praying for him and his family. Your thoughts are with him, but after every game he's texting guys. He's watching the games and he's still a big part of this team."
As Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times pointed out Tuesday morning, Fleming, who manages the Tampa penalty kill, would be proud of the fact that the Lightning haven't allowed a power-play goal in 30 opportunities and are the best short-handed team remaining in the playoffs.
The Capitals have been unsuccessful in 11 power-play opportunities through two games and extending that streak Tuesday night would continue the running tribute for Fleming since his diagnosis.