Does Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier have to work harder or just smarter?
That turned out to be the question of the morning after the Tampa Bay Lightning's morning skate at the Air Canada Centre: does captain Vinny Lecavalier need more passion in his game or does he just need to work smarter?
Whatever your answer, Lecavalier has to do something. He has one goal in his first 12 games, and while he's got 10 points, he is has zero his last two games and has been kind of invisible. His ice time was a season-low 16:06 in Monday's awful loss to the Flyers.
"Well, Vinny knows he's struggling, and he's got to get some passion in his game," coach Rick Tocchet said. "He knows it. I talked to him about it. It's not just scoring. He's the captain of the hockey club, and it's not just him. But he's the main figure on our team. We've got to get him going. He has to show us that he's ready to play. He knows it. There's no better stage than tonight in Toronto. I'd be very surprised if he didn't sow any passion tonight."
But Lecavalier wasn't sure "passion" was the right way to describe what his game has been lacking.
"I think I'm working very hard," he said. "I just think things aren't working out. I think everybody is working hard but sometimes you've got to work smarter than harder. You've got to work hard but you've got to works smart, too. I just seem to be thinking too much. Maybe start playing with more instincts."
One Toronto writer tried to bait Tocchet by asking if Lecavalier was difficult to coach, which Tocchet said was not the case.
"He's a great guy. He's just in a funk," Tocchet said. "It's a situation right now where we're trying to get him to clean up his game. Less is more. When you're struggling, take the body a little bit more. We need him to score goals around the net."
And be better at puck possession.
"When you're 6-4 and you have that puck kind of caught in your feet, and with your long arms and your (butt), you should be able to hold onto the puck," Tocchet said. "That's something he's got to be better at. He knows it."
More stuff from the morning skate: Antero Niittymaki will start in net. Tocchet said it was not a reaction to Smith's poor game against the Flyers (five goals on 18 shots), but that Niittymaki was scheduled to start the second half of a back-to-back. ... Tocchet said the team is not at this point yet, but he wants players to know at some point decisions will need to be made on roster spots. "It's reality," he said. "When you're a player that's consistently giving nothing, zeroes in terms of points and you're not hitting and you're not doing certain things to help the team, the reality is there are going to be roster changes. That's normal in NHL life." Asked if he could see a situation in which either Ryan Craig or Brandon Bochenski could be recalled from AHL Norfolk, Tocchet said, "If that's what it takes to wake guys up, for sure. You talk to management and go from there." Craig and Bochenski each have seven goals and nine points. Both would have to clear re-entry waivers. ... The parents of rookie wing James Wright were at the morning skate (they live in Saskatoon) and will be at the game. No surprise they said their son, whom Tocchet has praised for his coachability, was a "low maintenance" kid. ... Center Steven Stamkos said knowing Steve Yzerman will be at the game will not change his preparation or game plan. Yzerman is executive director of Team Canada for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and Stamkos, with 11 goals in 12 games, is making a dark-horse run at the team. "You do realize he's here, and you want to showcase what you have to the boss who's picking the team," Stamkos said, "but it's not like I'm going to change my game plan. It's something you keep in the back of your mind." Stamkos said making the Olympic team would be "the ultimate dream come true." ... Rookie defenseman Victor Hedman said moving into his own apartment, instead of living at the hotel where he had been housed since training camp, was great because he could start cooking for himself. His girlfriend's father is a chef and he "taught me a few things." ... There was a mutual admiration society between Hedman and Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who were foes in Sweden's elite league. "He's very big and he's just so fast," Hedman said. "It's hard to put into words, he's such a good goalie. He's going to be a huge impact for Toronto." To which Gustavsson answered about Hedman, "A big talent. You can see a guy play with confidence. he knows what to do with the puck, and he's in the right place all the time." ... Toronto coach Ron Wilson on Stamkos: "He's spent a lot of time in the gym and it's paid dividends. he can't be slowed down with one arm or a stick check on his hip or anything like that." ... Will we see defenseman Kurtis Foster any time soon? Tampa Bay could certainly use his shot on the power play. But Tocchet said Foster, scratched for the second straight game, needs to clean up his five-on-five game first. "I don't want to get into a situation with him where you use him for the big shot and he sits on the bench the rest of the night," Tocchet said. "He's been working hard in practice. He'll get in there soon."