RALEIGH, N.C. — While Lightning coach Guy Boucher yelled at his players Thursday, it was difficult to tell whether he was simply trying to set a tone for tonight's season opener against the Hurricanes or was legitimately upset at what he saw.
Post-practice at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, he left no doubt.
"We are far from where we want to be," Boucher said. "Some guys, the new guys that made the NHL this morning, everything is rosy, and some older guys who are supposed to show the way didn't. We want to make sure we're in a perfect state of mind to start."
Boucher took a dig at RW Brett Connolly after one lackadaisical drill, the basic message being the rookie was not in juniors anymore. He also was tough on the first power-play unit — forwards Vinny Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and D Eric Brewer — that passed the puck beautifully but seemed reluctant to shoot.
"Gentlemen, we will not score one goal if we don't shoot the puck," Boucher said. "We don't need a perfect play. We need a shot on net."
(Try to guess where Boucher used expletives for emphasis.)
"He did it for a reason," Stamkos said. "We started the practice without the attention to detail that we wanted, and he was letting guys know, especially the newer guys. He wants to make sure guys are prepared."
Especially given the subplots of the first three games:
Tampa Bay eliminated Carolina from playoff contention on the final day of last season. It pushed eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston (Saturday's opponent) to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final, and it wiped out Southeast Division foe Washington (Monday's opponent) in four games in the East semis.
"These guys are going to be charging at us," Boucher said. "We want to make sure we're ready for that."
ALTERNATE PLAN: With D Mattias Ohlund (knee) on injured reserve for at least one game, either Stamkos or D Eric Brewer is expected to be a fill-in alternate captain. Boucher said he might even alternate the A between the two depending on how long Ohlund is out.
Stamkos, 21, who was an alternate for one preseason game and has made a point of wanting more of a leadership role, said even being considered is a sign "the coaching staff has confidence and respect for me."
ODDS AND ENDS: C Dominic Moore (back) practiced and is expected to play. … There is a watch party tonight at Brick House Tavern, 1102 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.