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Victor Hedman could be benched for Tampa Bay Lightning's game vs. Maple Leafs



Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet didn't come right out and say rookie defenseman Victor Hedman will be benched for Thursday's game with the Maple Leafs, but it sure sounded like that is what will happen.

"We might have to take a step back with him," Tocchet said. "He's played a lot of hockey. There are a lot of expectations. He's been struggling. He's been making some mistakes, so we might have to take a step back. He might have to watch a game. There's nothing wrong with that. we did it with Stamkos."

After a stellar start to the season, Hedman, 19, has dipped noticeably. He was minus-3 Tuesday against the Rangers. Since scoring that terrific goal Jan. 6 at Buffalo, Hedman has one assist in seven games and is minus-6 while making obvious positional blunders. He has one shot on goal in his past two games.

"His heart is in the right direction," Tocchet said. "It's just, you know, he's a 19-year-old kid, you have to remember. Other guys who don't dress, you have to kick them in the (butt). I don't think it's so much kick him in the (butt) as much as it is slowing it down and letting him catch his breath. It's not preparation. He has a man's body. He's going to get bigger and bigger, but mentally I think he has to take a step back."

If Hedman is out, either Matt Walker or David Hale would get back in the lineup.

The team did not practice Wednesday but had a 70-minute video session that went over all that went wrong in Tuesday's 8-2 loss to the Rangers. In fact, Tocchet said he didn't even get to the third period, there was so much to go over. The god news for the Lightning is even after all it has gone through this season, the team, with 48 points, is just four out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. It also is only five points in front of the Maple Leafs for 14th. Tampa Bay plays Toronto on Thursday. 

"We have to think positive, though, think positive," left wing Ryan Malone said. "We shouldn't be looking backwards. We should be going forward."

Other stuff that came out of Wednesday: Defensman Paul Ranger was not in the building. There had been some speculation that Ranger, away from the team since Oct. 23 for personal reasons is close to rejoining the team and that he might even show up Wednesday. Didn't happen, and Tocchet said he could not offer any new information. ... Goaltender Mike Smith faced some shots  on the ice before the team's video session. Smith ducked out quickly, but Tocchet said the session went well and Smith (neck strain) is very close to being able to play. Still, it sounded like Antero Niittymaki would start against Toronto despite being pulled in two of his past three starts in which he has allowed. Since Smith was hurt in a Jan. 12 game with the Capitals, Niittymaki is 2-3-0 with a 4.49 goals-against average and an .850 save percentage.    

[Last modified: Friday, February 19, 2010 12:15am]


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