Cooper optimistic about Lightning's struggling power play

Lightning coach Jon Cooper, shown during a preseason game in September, is optimistic the team can improve its power play.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning coach Jon Cooper, shown during a preseason game in September, is optimistic the team can improve its power play.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — For coach Jon Cooper, most baffling about the Lightning power play is, "you watch us in practice and we look like the '76 Russians."

Yet in games, Tampa Bay is on the other end of the spectrum.

With just six goals in its past 67 chances including 0-for-1 Tuesday, the power play is the season's longest-running problem. It struggled even before Steven Stamkos' broken leg.

Cooper is optimistic, though.

"It's coming. You can feel it," he said Tuesday. "Our problem has been getting into the (offensive) zone, but we have a pretty good mind-set. We've talked at length the last couple of days here, so I like where our heads are at."

Captain Marty St. Louis agreed: "The good sign of life is our attitude towards it. We all want to make it better, including the staff. We're not just waiting."

In addition to better entries and crisper passes once the power play has set up, St. Louis said more power-play faceoff wins are critical to keeping pucks in the offensive zone.

It's a good point as the Lightning during its 22-game power-play skid is 49-for-108 on faceoffs, a mediocre 45.4 percent.

"It's not just the centermen, it's everybody," St. Louis said. "It's everyone around the dot."

Hedman healing: D Victor Hedman on Tuesday, for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury Dec. 5 against Ottawa, participated in a full skate, and Cooper said he might play Thursday at home against the Predators.

"Conditioning-wise it's fine," said Hedman, who has missed six games. "It's getting timing back and the feel for the game."

Hedman, 22, is second on the team with an average 21:19 of ice time. He is a mainstay on the power play and penalty kill, and with six goals, 15 points is on his way to his best offensive season.

"He's a horse back there," Cooper said. "We miss him."

Helenius out: It sounds as if the Lightning's relationship with AHL Syracuse G Riku Helenius is over. The No. 15 overall pick of the 2006 draft was told to stay home when — as is his right as a player beyond his entry-level deal — he declined an assignment to ECHL Florida.

Helenius, 25, became odd man out when Kristers Gudlevskis, drafted 124th overall last summer, was promoted from Florida to back up to Cedrick Desjardins.

"He didn't do anything wrong," Syracuse GM Julien BriseBois said. "We just think the other two guys deserve to get all the games."

Helenius, in the final year of a two-year deal, is not suspended and will continue to collect his $650,000 salary. Ideally, Tampa Bay would like to trade him.

Tough to beat: G Ben Bishop has allowed two or fewer goals in 21 of his 26 starts.

Odds and ends: C Valtteri Filppula has 12 goals in 34 games. He had nine in 41 games last season with the Red Wings. … The Lightning is 5-1 in shootouts and 8-2-1 in overtime or shootout games. … Tampa Bay snapped a four-game losing streak at Nassau Coliseum. … Cooper is a 1989 graduate of Hofstra University, across the street from Nassau Coliseum. … The Lightning played with 11 forwards, seven defensemen. … RW Dana Tyrell and LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie were scratched.

Cooper optimistic about Lightning's struggling power play 12/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 11:53pm]

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