It's hard to imagine a bigger motivation for Steve Downie.
Three weeks after Steve Downie was shipped 1,082 miles away from John Stevens' doghouse in Philadelphia, the volatile rookie returns to the Wachovia Center to face the team that drafted him 29th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, when the Flyers host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:05 p.m.
Downie, sent to Tampa Bay along with Steve Eminger and Philadelphia's fourth round 2009 draft pick in exchange for Matt Carle and Tampa Bay's third round 2009 draft choice, is playing in just his third game with the Bolts after being assigned to the AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals. There he is currently serving a three-game suspension for an illegal hit on former NHL player Kyle McLaren.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Lightning management are projecting Downie as a future third line player. Having played 44 professional games (regular and post season) in an orange and black sweater, the secret to unlocking Steve Downie's potential may reside in an examination of his playing time with the Flyers.
In the thirteen games where he was awarded more than 10 minutes of ice time per game (an average of 13:08 per game), Downie produced four goals and six assists with a plus-minus rating of +6 and 13 PIM.
By contrast, in the 31 games where Downie was given less than 10 minutes of ice time per game (an average of 7:06 per game), Downie's performance plummeted to two goals and one assist with a plus-minus rating of -8 and 77 PIM.
Downie is currently averaging just 6:52 per game, taking a shift on the Bolts fourth line as an injury call up for David Koci (broken hand).
With the information at hand, Downie would appear better suited for duty on the third line, as opposed to the checking line assignment he drew for much of his career as a Philadelphia Flyer.
Tampa Bay Interim Head Coach Rick Tocchet doesn't sound opposed to the upgrade. In today's Tampa Tribune, Tocchet was quoted as saying "he's had two good chances getting five to seven minutes a game. Some guys are playing 17 or 18 minutes and not getting chances. So we got to get this kid a little more ice time. He's got some game there."
As a player the Flyers gave up on, it's hard to imagine a better opportunity for Downie to show that he belongs in the NHL than with a strong performance in Philadelphia tonight.