BUFFALO, N.Y. — Brett Connolly is staying in the NHL. The Lightning's rookie right wing was told by GM Steve Yzerman after Tuesday's victory over Sabres.
"We feel Brett's shown that he belongs in the NHL and makes our team better," Yzerman wrote in a text message. "So, we've decided to keep him."
The decision came after Connolly's ninth NHL game, the most he could have played without the clock starting on his three-year, $2.7 million contract. The other option was sending him back to Prince George of the junior Western league.
Connolly, 19, has not only been playing on a line with C Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, he has picked their brains as well.
"Both guys have Stanley Cups and a lot of experience, so, for me, it's nice to have a couple of guys like that I can talk to," Connolly said before Tuesday's game. "I'm just trying to take as much knowledge as I can."
"We talk a lot," St. Louis said. "You want to make sure you don't give him too much; maybe every day work on a different thing. There are a lot of details to pay attention to, and he's done a great job with retaining a lot of information. At the same time it's not a one-way dialogue."
What is discussed?
"Bigger picture," Connolly said, "from playing in the defensive zone to being professional to being ready to work out, being ready to practice, being ready to play every game."
Coach Guy Boucher noticed.
"That's also what we're looking at, how he's reacting, not just on the ice but off ice," he said. "He's been real good with the assistant coaches, too, going to them to ask questions."
At the end of the day, I'm just trying to help the team win as much as we can," Connolly said.
FEW CHANCES: Entering Tuesday, only eight teams had fewer power-play opportunities than the Lightning's 27 (it got three more against the Sabres), and Boucher was at a loss to understand.
"We're awful," he said of drawing penalties. "I'm trying to get a finger on it and it's very difficult. We haven't changed our style or the way we're doing things. We're going through checks. We're using our speed."
Teams, generally, are keeping sticks down, but also are backing up more against the Lightning because "they're afraid of us stretching them," Boucher said.
A positive for Boucher is the team is forced to be better five-on-five, and its 20 five-on-five goals entered Tuesday tied with the Capitals for the league lead.
STICK WITH IT: It is not so much a willingness to sacrifice one's body that had the Lightning second in the league entering Tuesday with 128 blocked shots, but the way players use their sticks.
"It looks like a small detail but to me it's a very important thing," Boucher said. "It's the gap with your stick to the other team's stick. You can still hit guys and it looks good, you hear a pound, but the puck still travels and it becomes a two-on-one or an opportunity in front of the net.
"So, for me it's always stick on puck first. Once the stick on puck is established, then the body."
ODDS AND ENDS: Lecavalier's goal was his 800th NHL point. … Forwards Ryan Shannon and Mattias Ritola and D Bruno Gervais were scratched.