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It's time for Tampa Bay Lightning, Teddy Purcell to find out how good he is

BRANDON — Here's the thing about Teddy Purcell's shot:

"It's outstanding," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.

But …

"I don't think he knows how outstanding it is."

Same with Purcell's skating.

"We keep telling him he has great speed. He just doesn't know how much."

Same with Purcell's game.

"He just doesn't know," Boucher said, "how good he is."

It is time for the right wing and the Lightning to find out.

Purcell, 26, has an enormous opportunity this season. He will be on a line with center Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone in Friday's opener at Carolina. And with Simon Gagne gone as a free agent, Purcell is in line for more minutes and more chances to contribute and solidify himself as the top-six forward Tampa Bay sorely needs.

If he plays like he did during last season's playoffs — when he had six goals and 17 points in 18 games — his new two-year, $4.725 million deal will be a bargain.

But if Purcell, acquired in March 2010 from the Kings for Jeff Halpern, falls into his old pattern of inconsistency, well, that will be a concern.

Consider that last season, despite career bests of 17 goals, 34 assists and 51 points, Purcell had stretches of 19, 15 and 14 games with one goal.

"I was more consistent throughout the playoffs," Purcell said Wednesday at the Ice Sports Forum. "That's something I've tried to work on since I got to Tampa Bay. I've talked to the coaching staff, trying to be a more consistent player instead of having so many ups and downs. I want to be more of a complete player and more of a go-to guy."

The starting point is his shot, a zippy wrister Lecavalier said is "one of the best on the team."

But Purcell admitted, "Sometimes I'm not as confident in it. Things happen quick in the NHL. If you hesitate that one second, the shot isn't there anymore."

He also admitted to a pass-first sensibility, something he said is from childhood and was reinforced when he came to a Lightning team with stars such as Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis.

"Not really knowing them, you want to give them the puck," Purcell said. "But from getting to know them and being more comfortable, I'll have more of that shoot-first mentality, maybe not waste as many opportunities."

Boucher said he wants Purcell to play at a high tempo because "when he slows down the game, he loses his assets."

Purcell said he will visualize shooting more before games.

Most of all, though, Purcell realizes his opportunity.

"You're never satisfied," he said. "You always want more. That's our team motto, and it's what I want for myself, too."

Even so, "A leopard doesn't change his spots," Boucher said. "He's still the same person he was last year with a bit more confidence but still not the confidence he will get eventually."

How good is Purcell?

"You haven't seen it yet," Boucher said. "You think you've seen it because he's played great, but he's even better than that. That's what I think."

It's time for Tampa Bay Lightning, Teddy Purcell to find out how good he is 10/05/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:36pm]
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