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Coach Rick Tocchet on Tampa Bay Lightning: 'I think we're close' to turnaround

TAMPA — Coach Rick Tocchet offered some optimism Tuesday, saying, with caveats, "I think we're close" to turning it around.

"You've got Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Ryan Malone, you go down the list, Paul Ranger coming back, (Mike) Smith. We've got pieces. It's not like a rebuilding and we're devastated. But the pieces we add are going to be crucial.

"We have good draft position. … I'm sure there are going to be some trades and free agent signing, so it can turn around pretty quickly."

GM Brian Lawton, in a fan forum, said adding defensive depth is a priority to a corps that, right now, likely will include Ranger, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Lashoff and Matt Smaby.

"We're going to be very active and aggressive on the blue line," he said.

He also wants to add a top-six forward. But Lawton said adding players is not enough.

"The attitude has to change around here, too," he said. "When you're losing you find ways to lose. When you lose, it's contagious. We have to stamp that out as soon as training camp comes."

MALONE OUT: Malone left Tuesday's game in the second period when an Evgeni Malkin slap shot broke his right hand. Malone, who bent low to block the shot, is the 10th Lightning player currently sidelined by injury.

"Every game you're waiting for something to happen," Tocchet said. "We'll probably have to call another guy up."

SMITTY NOT READY: Smith, out since Jan. 31 with a concussion, said he has "full confidence I'll be ready for training camp next year."

Still, the goaltender said he is "concerned the (healing) process is a lot slower than I hoped for."

Smith wanted to play a game or two before the end of the season, but said he can't seem to shake a fogginess that has kept him from bumping up his workouts from about 20 minutes on a stationary bike.

"I don't have any headache problems and that's why it's frustrating," Smith said. "It's just kind of a haze, you don't feel right. It's hard to describe. The real frustrating part is a lot of people got hit a lot harder than I got hit. Boxers are punched and knocked out and come back and play from it."

SHORT-HANDED: Tocchet said he wants C Steven Stamkos to be a regular penalty killer next season, so the rookie will see a lot of those situations in the season's final games.

"He's got quick hands. He's quick to get to the puck," Tocchet said. "He has to get better at his shot-blocking. If he's going to be a penalty killer, he's got to get in the lane to stop pucks."

"To prove you can play both ends of the ice is a unique situation," Stamkos said.

ODDS AND ENDS: RW Brandon Bochenski got his first Lightning point, an assist. … F Paul Szczechura, with a goal and an assist, got his second career two-point game. … Jeff Halpern got his first goals in 11 games. … Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby was minus-4. … Tocchet said G Karri Ramo will start against the Capitals in Thursday's home finale. Mike McKenna will start Saturday's season finale at Atlanta. … F Ryan Craig (upper body) and D Richard Petiot (shoulder) were scratched.

Coach Rick Tocchet on Tampa Bay Lightning: 'I think we're close' to turnaround 04/07/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 6:51am]

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