Marty St. Louis and Dan Boyle in mutual admiration society
So, there was Lightning right wing Marty St. Louis on one side of the SAP Center on Thursday, praising his former teammate Dan Boyle, who was sitting in the Sharks locker room after the morning skate talking up St. Louis.
St. Louis and Boyle were teammates on Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup team. St. Louis recalled how Boyle was such "a big part of our defense." Boyle, asked about St. Louis playing his 1,000th game Tuesday at Los Angeles, said, "He'll be in the Hall of Fame for sure, and he deserves it."
It was quite a mutual admiration society as the players could not say enough good things about each other.
"I respect him so much," Boyle said of St. Louis. "His accomplishments speak for themselves. He's an amazing hockey player. To see what he's doing still is not surprising to me because I know how hard he works. He's just awesome."
Boyle was traded with Brad Lukowich from the Lightning to the Sharks in July 2008 for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart a 2009 first-round pick and a 2010 fourth-round pick. Said St. Louis: "That was a tough transaction to see happen, especially for a guy like myself who was on the inside and knew how much he meant to the team and my game, So, yeah, we've missed him for many years."
"The thing about Boyler was he was really tough to play against defensively, too," St. Louis added. "He's not a big guy but he's annoying in the corners. he has quick hands and his stick is always there, and he digs. he makes it hard on opponents, no doubt."
Both said they see a lot of themselves in the other. Neither was drafted, both played in college, both are undersized (St. Louis is 5 feet 7, Boyle is listed at 5-11), and as St. Louis said, "(Boyle) probably doesn't like to admit it but we're close to the same age."
St. Louis, who went to the University of Vermont, is 38. Boyle, who went to Miami (Ohio), is 37.
"We both played college hockey. We both had to fight a little bit to get in, especially at a time where there wasn't small players in the league," St. Louis said. "For Boyler it probably was tougher playing defense. There wasn't many small players. He might have been one of the guys that helped the trend to bring speedy, puck-moving defensemen that can battle you defensively as well. He's definitely one of the best, I think."
Added Boyle: "We're both fierce competitors who had to fight to get where we are."
COOPER WANTS TEAM TO RETURN TO ITS ROOTS
The Lightning had allowed only six first-period goals in its first 19 games, going 14-5-0. In its past two games, though, Tampa Bay has given up four combined in the first period and has lost to the Coyotes and Kings by a combined score of 11-5.
So, when Tampa Bay tonight faces the Sharks in San Jose, coach Jon Cooper wants his players to get back to the team defense that served it so well at the start of the season.
"That mentality we've had of five guys playing D, and when we have (the puck) five guys playing on offense," Cooper said. "We've kind of gotten away from that a little bit. I think because we've gotten down early in these games we've pressed a little bit to score goals and we've probably been on the wrong side of the puck because of that, hoping a bounce here or a bounce there will get us back in the game when all it's really done is put us in a deeper hole."
What Cooper is talking about is trusting the system. As he said, "If we do get down, not to change things, trust our offense will come from our defense and just stick to it."
That likely is easier said than done facing the Sharks, who have outscored teams 28-12 in the first period, are 5-1-2 at home and lead the league with an average 36.1 shots.
"Teams like this, a loud building, you just have to focus on the first five minutes and almost break the period down into these little segments in how we're going to play," Cooper said. "It's just playing D. We have to get back to letting our goalie see the first shot and when he does, hopefully, make that save that we're there to clear the rebound and he's not going to see a second or third (shot)."
Cooper also said he wants to see his defense do a better job of boxing opponents out from in front of the net.
"You have to be aware of where guys are, where they're coming from and making them pay the price if they want to come into that area," he said. "We've been a little lax on that the last few games. Hopefully, we get back to that."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Anders Lindback will get the start in net. Lindback hasn't started since Nov. 11 against Boston when he allowed two goal on 25 shots. ... It appears B.J. Crombeen will be back in the lineup after being scratched in Tuesday's 5-1 loss at Los Angeles. ... Defenseman Mark Barberio, who sat out two games with a left hand/arm issue, also is likely to play. ... Likely scratches are defenseman Andrej Sustr and wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie.