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Coach Tocchet: Tampa Bay Lightning needs Vinny Lecavalier "to play hard tonight"



Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet put some pressure on captain Vinny Lecavalier and left wing Alex Tanguay to pick up their games, beginning with today's game with the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

"There's no other way to say it. We need Vinny to play hard tonight," Tocchet said. "Go to the net hard right from the opening draw and be ready to go and keep shooting the puck."

Lecavalier and Tanguay have really struggled the past three games with neither player getting a point. Tanguay has been slumping even more with only two assists in his past nine games. The slumps come at a time when the Lightning is desperate for secondary scoring as Marty St. Louis (10) and Steven Stamkos (eight) have combined for 18 of the team's past 26 goals.

How would Tocchet recommend breaking the slumps.

"I don't have a secret formula," Tocchet said. "When you're struggling, you have to stick with it. Nobody feels sorry for you. You have to keep going. Their games have to pick. I'm sure they'll tell you. I'm hoping they're telling you."

Other stuff from the morning briefing with the coach:

Staying true to his stated formula of not benching a goalie after a tough game, Tocchet will start Antero Niittymaki in net. The coach said Mike Smith will start Sunday against the Rangers. ... Right wing Steven Downie is plus-8 in his past six games and leads the team at plus-16. Figuring that one out is not rocket science. "He has the puck on his stick a lot and he's one of our best forecheckers, so that correlates to spending less time in your end," Tocchet said. "If you're willing to hold onto the puck in the corners and take hits, puck possession, then you're going to be in your end." Having said that, Tocchet said you have to be careful with plus-minus because the stat can be so affected by what happens apart from a specific player. On the other hand, "With Steve Downie, he's taken pride defensively. He's in his end a lot and teams are a little leery of him when he's forechecking. That's why I like him." ... In case you haven't noticed, former Lightning players Jussi Jokinen and Radim Vrbata, both of whom struggled when they played with Tampa Bay have 21 and 20 goals, respectively. For what it's worth, Tocchet said Jokinen texted him when Jokinen was traded to Carolina for Wade Brookbank and Josef Melichar and a 2009 fourth-round pick. "He said he was sorry he didn't play well." Jokinen did have some knee problems with Tampa Bay. Vrbata had family issues with his wife and her difficult pregnancy and went back to the Czech Republic to play. ... Entering Saturday, the Lightning was tied with the Flyers for most average penalty minutes with 16.9. Tampa Bay's 985 penalties was one behind league leader Philadelphia. "The stat I want to know is how many penalties are we drawing," Tocchet said. For the record, Tampa Bay was tied for the sixth most power play chances with 240. Not bad. Still, Tocchet bemoaned that his team takes too many penalties such as hooking and holding that show players aren't always moving their feet.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 18, 2010 2:13pm]


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