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History indicates a return to the playoffs after three years for the Tampa Bay Lightning

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November

The NHL on Monday released some stats that, if history repeats, means the Tampa Bay Lightning, at 7-2-1 and with 15 points tops in the East, has a pretty good chance to return to the playoffs for the first time after three years out of the postseason.

The Lightning and Canadiens actually both have 15 points, but Tampa bay has played fewer games, hence it gets the top spot.

Anyway, the league said seven of the past 12 Stanley Cup champions led their conferences heading into November. And only twice in the past 24 years has a team missed the playoffs after leading its conference at the end of October: the Flyers in 1993-94 and the Maple Leafs in 1988-89.

"I don't think that many expected us to be there because there are so many new people in place," coach Guy Boucher said. "The only thing I heard all the time was it's going to take time. I ever said it myself. What's happening is that nobody cares who gets the credit. You get success that way. Everybody dy is contributing right now whether it be fourth line, third line, second line, first line, everybody is playing the same way. That's where the success lies right now."

One area that is struggling a bit is the power play, which in its past five games is 3-for-21 and just 1-for-17 five-on-four. The changes coming include putting Teddy Purcell on the first unit in place of Ryan Malone, who was there to replace the injured Simon Gagne. Also, Mattias Ritola, who on Saturday against the Coyotes, scored his first NHL goal, will be with the second unit.

But more than personnel issues is that the units are not able to set up as quickly as needed.

"We're trying fancy stuff coming into the zone," Boucher said. "Once we're in and set up, we're great, but we waste, I'd say 80 to 85 percent of our power play getting in with no timing, trying to be fancy at the blue line. That's where we kill our power play and our momentum."

Boucher said a good power play has about 30 seconds "at best" out of two minutes in which it is set up the way it wants. In other words, "Success on the power play is not about the patterns. Everything else that takes up most of your time on the power play -- your breakout, your neutral zone, your zone entry, your transition off it, your battles in the corners, all that. That's your power play. So, if you don't invest (in that), you've got a bad power play, and the last two games I don't like the way we invested in our power play. We're softer on the power play than we are five-on-five."

Mathieu Roy on the way: With Matt Smaby out with a badly sprained ankle, Mathieu Roy will be called up from AHL Norfolk. ... Center Dominic Moore (groin) had an MRI exam on Monday. ... Gagne saw a neurologist and took a neuro-psyche test that confirmed again that he is not suffering from concussion symptoms, head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said. Even so, improvement of the neck strain has been slow, and Boucher said he does not expect Gagne to rejoin the team on the rest of the road trip.        

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 12:15am]

    

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