TAMPA — The Lightning brass doesn't want its players making a habit out of challenging each other to fight, but coach Guy Boucher had to admit he didn't mind Wednesday's confrontation between Ryan Malone and Dominic Moore.
It happened during a heated faceoff drill in which players on the side losing the draw skated five killer sprints from side wall to side wall at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Before one faceoff, players jostled, words were exchanged and, suddenly, Malone and Moore grabbed each other. Teammates rushed in to separate them.
"That was perfect," Boucher said. "It's just what we needed. The assistant coaches said to me, 'We're accomplishing just what we wanted.' "
What the coaches wanted in a grueling 45-minute practice was to reignite the competitiveness — the want-to — so lacking in the first two periods of Tuesday's 4-2 loss at Carolina.
It wasn't just that Tampa Bay lost. What irked Boucher was the lack of a spark. Defenseman Eric Brewer described it as "trying to see our way through a game."
Boucher could have subjected players to a classic "bag" skate; that is without pucks and with skating drills to make legs scream with pain.
"But I've learned a long time ago that bag skating for the sake of bag skating brings nothing," Boucher said. "It's a punishment.
"(This) is not about punishment. It's redoing what wasn't there (Tuesday). It's about learning how to do it, and it's about doing the details."
So practice mimicked game situations. Players had a 15-minute "pregame" warmup. A faceoff drill was first because, well, games start with faceoffs.
There were one-on-one puck battles, two-on-two battles, puck-chasing drills and three-man goal-line-to-blue-line races in which losers kept racing until they finally won.
There was a two-minute five-on-three power play; appropriate given the team failed to score against the Hurricanes on such an opportunity. The power play scored twice on Wednesday.
"The No. 1 thing is competitiveness; who wants it most," Boucher said. "Everything we did is about doing it right the first time."
"That's what I like about his practices, the simulation of games within the hard work," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "He's skating us in a smart way so we can improve."
The faceoff drill was the most intense, and just jostling for position before the puck drop was heated. That's when Malone and Moore got into it, and it escalated after the faceoff. It was more pushing and grabbing than a fight, and teammates intervened.
"You're competing, and Mooresey always competes very hard," Malone said. "I was just trying to make it fair for everybody. I don't have too much more to say."
"We're all competitive," Moore said. "At the end of the day, that's what you want."
Bigger picture, he added, "You can't forget that things in this league you have to earn. Nothing is given. You start taking something for granted and start counting something you haven't earned yet, you're in trouble."
Just what Boucher wants to avoid.
"It's about who's willing to pay the price," he said. "It's a habit. Habit is not once in a while. It's every time."
NOTES: Right wing Mattias Ritola is on waivers. … Forward Carter Ashton, with nine goals and 13 points in 10 games for AHL Norfolk, was the league's rookie of the month.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]