SUNRISE — Defenseman Eric Brewer is starting to feel more at home with the Lightning in more ways than one.
Brewer, 31, the former Blues captain acquired via trade in mid February, recently rented an apartment in Tampa, with his family — including 3-year-old daughter, Reese, and baby girl, Hadley — joining him this past week.
"It's made it way easier," Brewer said.
And on the ice, Brewer is fitting well with his new team, anchoring the top defensive pairing. Though the Lightning is in a rough stretch, having won just one game in its last seven heading into tonight's game in Toronto, coach Guy Boucher said its defense has "been at its best," with Brewer a big reason why.
"He's our best defenseman, there's no doubt about it," Boucher said. "He's great one-on-one, he's got speed, he can bring the puck up, he's got a good shot, got good leadership. He's a solid individual off the ice. Honestly, I can't ask for better. That's what I asked for and I didn't think I'd get it, and we got it."
Brewer had to make some adjustments in joining the Lightning, getting used to Boucher's unique system, as well as acclimating himself with opponents in the Eastern Conference. But he said it has helped a lot being paired with veteran defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who has talked him through different situations. Brewer, acquired for a third-round pick and defense prospect Brock Beukeboom, is plus-1 with a goal in 11 games with Tampa Bay, logging at least 21 minutes in six.
"I think I understand for the most part what they want to do and how they go about doing it," Brewer said. "The positioning of the forwards, is a little bit different, so I'm getting used to that, and some of the plays that aren't routine aren't with another team. But it's been much better."
While Brewer, who spent more than five seasons with the Blues, is used to being in a leadership position, with veterans such as Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier on board, there's going to be a feeling-out process.
"I think everyone has their own personality, and I'm just kind of seeing how things operate here and see if I can help out with that," Brewer said. "I'm certainly not trying to force anything, but trying to compliment all the good things the guys do here."
Brewer is excited about experiencing a playoff run, having not played in the postseason since 2003 with the Oilers (he was out after back surgery when the Blues made it in 2008-09).
"It's good," he said. "It's been a long time since I've been on this side of the race."
STICK IT OUT: Center Steven Stamkos required some dental work after Saturday night's 4-3 loss, getting caps on two teeth after a high-stick by Florida defenseman Jason Garrison put a hole through his mouth guard. Though Stamkos will need more extensive work for his chipped teeth, he didn't plan on visiting any family dentist in the trip to Toronto, near his hometown, instead waiting until next week when the team returns to Tampa.
Stamkos smiled, "I'd rather be eating dinner at home than going to the dentist."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.