Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet shuffles lines after Monday's mass benching
There actually was a bit of anticipation going out to practice today as the Tampa Bay Lightning licked its wounds from Monday's 3-0 loss to the Capitals and coach Rick Tocchet's benching of the top two lines for the final seven minutes or so of the game.
Not only were we interested in what Tocchet had to say after not addressing reporters after the game, we wanted to see what the new line combinations would be. And there were changes.
Here is the way they shook out:
Ryan Malone-Vinny Lecavalier-Marty St. Louis
Paul Szczechura-Steven Stamkos-Steve Downie
Alex Tanguay-Jeff Halpern-James Wright
Stephane Veilleux or Todd Fedoruk-Zenon Konopka-Kurtis Foster
The greatest rewards went to Downie and Szczechura.
"Szczechura and Downie, those guys have been our best forwards the past five games, James Wright," Tocchet said. "It's no coincidence, I don't think they ever get scored against. And if you look at Steve Downie, the last five or six games, he's going to the net. He wanted to win the game last night."
The biggest loser was Tanguay, who went from playing with Lecavalier down to what is basically a third line.
As for not addressing reporters after Monday's game, Tocchet said he was tied up talking to a player and it was "too important" to interrupt.
As for the benchings, he said, "It's on the leaders. They have to understand we have to play a certain way. ... We're playing the Washington Capitals. You can't be out there 45 seconds and throw the puck blind in front. we're trying plays that are not there. Zero-zero hockey game, there's no excuse to do stupid things 22 minutes into a game. So, how should they take it? Honestly, I don't care. We have enough guys playing the right way."
That includes worrying about more than scoring, Tocchet said.
"When you're not scoring, you can't cheat in other ways. You have to be spotless in other areas. If you don't score, do something else, be good defensively, go to the net to occupy space so somebody else can get a goal. You can't play perimeter and throw the puck in front of the net blind. If you're not scoring, okay, but do other things. Don't be batting 0-for-4, and that's the key to the message today."
Other tidbits: Former Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin did not make the trip with the Oilers because of a back injury and has missed yet another chance to play for the first time at the St. Pete Times Forum since Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final. You might recall Khabibulin bowing out the first time he came into the stadium with the Blackhawks, saying facing his old team in his old arena would be too much of an emotional distraction. Khabibulin also was hurt (groin) when the Lightning faced the Oilers in preseason in Winnipeg. ... Players were offered swine flu shots. At least one player, defenseman Matt Walker, declined. "There isn't enough known about the injection itself," he said. "For me, to inject something into my body, I want to make sure what's going on there. I'm not sold on the research yet."