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Coach Rick Tocchet says Tampa Bay Lightning still has plenty to play for

BRANDON — The Lightning is out of the playoffs, but coach Rick Tocchet said the team has plenty for which to play, and he wanted Monday's 75-minute practice at the Ice Sports Forum to set a start-fresh tone.

"If you're here to punch the clock, it's not Groundhog Day; you don't show up for 15 minutes and leave. That's not going to happen on this club. That sort of stuff has to stop," he said.

"We need competitive people around here. We have to get the fans to believe in what we're doing around here for them to come to the rink and actually watch a product they can be proud of. It starts from Day 1. Today is the start for me to get this thing back on track."

Tocchet had the team in the gym right after Saturday's humiliating 9-3 loss to the Hurricanes and every day since.

He said the extra-long practice was to address defensive positioning and allowing goals off the opponent's rush, two things that have slipped during Tampa Bay's 2-7-2 streak.

"You can use the excuse of new players, trade deadline, guys don't know if they're going to be here or not, but those are excuses we're not going to let slip in here," Tocchet said. "We have 16 games left and right now we're trying to find out who wants to play in the NHL and who wants to be here."

Tocchet's contract: It sure sounds as if Tocchet is close to a deal that will remove his interim label.

"They said we'd find a time to talk about it," Tocchet said of the higher-ups, "but it's more, I haven't had time, they haven't had time right now, especially at the trade deadline. I'm sure everybody wants to hear everybody's opinion about stuff. But from what I've been told about what type of team they're looking for and what kind of players they want here, I agree with them."

Decision day: Gary Roberts, 42 and in his 21st NHL season, is expected to announce his retirement today. The left wing has not played since clearing waivers Wednesday.

Odds and ends: G Mike Smith (concussion) has said he wants to play again this season, but every day he does not practice makes it more plausible the team will shut him down. … RW Marty St. Louis was excused from practice for "personal" reasons, Tocchet said. … RW Evgeny Artyukhin looked much better practicing one-timers, putting a couple of pucks in top corners. "I'm not too bad," he said.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Coach Rick Tocchet says Tampa Bay Lightning still has plenty to play for 03/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 8:06am]
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