How about some good news concerning Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier?
Okay, I'll admit this isn't the most glamorous stat I've ever thrown out there, but given I wrote about how bad Tampa Bay Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier was on faceoffs after two games, to be fair, we should point out how good he has been in the past six. And it will be nice to write about something besides the fact that he hasn't scored in 15 games. Darn it, there it is again.
Anyway, Lecavalier was 9-for-29 on faceoffs in those first two games for 31 percent. Since then, he has won 58 of 94 faceoffs for a rate of 61.7 percent. For the season, he has won 54.5 percent.
That actually is part of a very good trend for Tampa Bay, which enters Saturday's game with the Sabres, the No. 3 team in the league when it comes to faceoff winning percentage at 55.3 percent. Other top faceoff takers include Steven Stamkos, ranked eighth in the league, at 58.4 percent and Zenon Konopka at 68 percent.
The team's best day was Thursday against the Sharks, the No. 1 faceoff team in the league, but who lost 58 percent of draws to Tampa Bay.
Lecavalier said he hasn't made any changes, but credits a team-concept strategy.
"We try to get the wingers involved as much as possible to get the loose pucks," he said. "A lot of times, it's not even the centerman. Basically, it's my wingers that win the faceoffs. They win that battle and get that puck. I think it's knowing what you're going to do before the puck drops."
Other stuff from the morning skate: With David Hale having displaced Kurtis Foster in the short term as a top-six defenseman, coach Rick Tocchet was asked what Foster had to do to regain his playing time. "Kurtis has to get a little urgency in his game," Tocchet said. "He knows about it. We talked about it. He needs a little more bite He has to win battles. It's the same as anybody. If you're going to play, you have to win battles. David Hale has been winning battles all year for us, and he's playing." ... The Lightning next week, for the second straight week, will play only Thursday and Saturday. So, Tocchet said he will conduct practices the same way. In other words, with another "extended training camp." These are opportunities when you get a lot of time off," he said. "These are days that we really need." ... Tocchet said rookie defenseman Victor Hedman improved last game when it came to reading the play before diving into the offensive zone, something Hedman did poorly in the previous two games. "We don't want to take that away from him," Tocchet said about Hedman's offensive instincts. "But he has to recognize we have to have our hinge guy back for him. A couple of times he'll get in there and we won't have anybody back, and it's a little dangerous. He's a young kid. He'll recognize that." ... And there was more praise for James Wright, who scored his first NHL goal against San Jose on his first shift on a line with Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. "He did a couple things people don't notice, too," Tocchet said. "Marty and Vinny were in the zone doing their thing, and (Wright) was actually high in the diamond where we want him and got the puck back in, and Vinny might have had another chance. It's not on the score sheet. people don't notice it, but the coaches and players know. He does the right things." Asked if Wright has done enough not to be sent back to juniors, a decision that will have to be made before Thursday's game, Tocchet said, "He hasn't done anything for him not to be on the team." ... The third line of center Jeff Halpern and right wing Drew Miller (also with left wings Wright and Alex Tanguay) has not allowed an even-strength goal. But as Halpern pointed out, "We haven't scored yet, either." Not a big deal, Tocchet said. "You're looking for guys to be an even or on the positive side. You're giving your team a chance to win every night, and they are."