Tocchet: "We're within striking distance"
Take this, perhaps, as coach-speak optimism but when assessing where the Lightning is in the playoff race, coach Rick Tocchet said his sights still are on winning the division title. Entering Wednesday's games, Tampa Bay was nine points behind the leading Capitals and with a game in hand.
The key, Tocchet said, is not having any more slumps such as the 2-7-5 downturn in which the team is stuck at the moment.
"We don't have any of those left," Tocchet said. "We can't go through those long slumps like we're going through now. We have to get our act together. We're nine points out with Washington. Still plenty of time; we're within striking distance. But the urgency has to be there. We can't let that hole get deeper and deeper."
Tocchet said he can't complain with the effort of most of the players on the three-game road trip that ended 0-2-1. He did, though, take issue with the mentality of the team that, as he said, is waiting for bad things to happen instead of making good things happen.
"If it's 1-1 or we're up 2-1, don't wait for things to happen," Tocchet said. "We have the mentality, what bad is going to happen? Is it going to be a bad call? Is it going to be a bad goal? If you have that mentality, you're on your heels. I want our players to be on their toes, go, go. Don't worry about things you can't control. You can control your game. We're waiting for bad things to happen."
And as the team has proved, when that is the case, bad things usually do.
Other stuff: The good news is that center Steven Stamkos, with three goals and 10 points, is now tied for eighth among rookies. Not bad considering he had points in only two of his first 17 games. ... Center Chris Gratton (lower body believed to be a knee) and wing Gary Roberts (groin) did not practice and will not play Thursday against the Bruins. ... Goaltender Mike Smith will start. ... Tocchet praised rookie Radek Smolenak for his grittiness and Paul Szczechura for his willingness to backcheck. "I really enjoyed coaching those guys," Tocchet said. "I really think they're going to add something to our team." ... Smith skipped all of Wednesday's practice while Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone left halfway through for body maintenance. "Lower body," Lecavalier said. "That's all I'm saying."