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Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher: the Red Wings are the team to beat "again"



Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher on Thursday said the Red Wings should be considered the favorite for the Stanley Cup.

"I think they're the team to beat in the league again," Boucher said after Tampa Bay's morning skate before its game against Detroit.

Boucher's comments took shape after he mentioned how important it will be for the Red Wings to get back defenseman Brad Stuart who has missed 15 games with a broken jaw but is expected to play against Tampa Bay. But Boucher then talked big picture.

"First off, knowing (coach) Mike Babcock, they're going to be extremely well prepared," Boucher said of the red Wings, who  lead the Central division and are second in the West with 74 points. "His players are intense. I look at their team and there are not many flaws out there. They're a team that has played together for a long time, and that's extremely important. When you look at the video of the games they play, they are so in sync. That's a big difference between them and every other team. There is very little hesitation in their game. They are very fast and very strong, but that makes them look even stronger and faster because they're so in sync. And on defense they have probably the best defenseman in the world (Nicklas Lidstrom) and at least three other guys who can be considered major top-four guys."

Boucher has a connection to Babcock as both played at McGill University, though Babcock was there about 10 years before Boucher. They are not best friends, Boucher said, but Tampa Bay's coach said he has followed Babcock's career (neither played in the NHL and went on to coaching careers there) and admitted he asked Babcock for some advice after he took the Lightning job. He said he counts Babcock, along with Jacques Lemaire and Pat Quinn, as a mentor.

"He loves the game. He loves to share," Boucher said of Babcock. "He's a very generous guy and a smart guy. Any time I can pick his brain. The problem now is I coach against him. I can't pick his brain as much any more."

That said, Boucher added, "I can't have more respect for him than I do."

Other stuff from the morning skate: Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk was inducted on Wednesday into the Florida Sports hall of Fame. He is the only hockey player so honored. ... Expect Dwayne Roloson to get the start in net. ... Boucher said center Nate Thompson, who has missed three games with concussion-like symptoms, is a game-time decision, though it certainly sounds as if Thompson is ready. ... D Randy Jones also is a game-time decision with what is believed a bad back. ... Boucher said the high ankle sprain that kept Steve Downie out of 13 games in December and January still is an issue. "He's a warrior," Boucher said. "He always ends up playing. It's every game and every practice, the minute he turns it the wrong way it's really hurting. He's a warrior out there. he will be playing." ...  Add Thompson to the list of Lightning players who will shave their heads on April 7 in a charity event for cancer research. "I talked to the lady who runs it about how much money they raise. That's the most important thing," Thompson said. "I couldn't justify my own self image for a good cause." Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Victor Hedman also have confirmed they will shave their heads.

[Last modified: Saturday, March 19, 2011 12:15am]


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