TAMPA — There are no injuries, no illnesses, nothing to indicate why Vinny Lecavalier is slumping so badly. Even the Lightning center is stumped as to the cause of a cruel stretch of 22 games that netted four goals.
"It's just been a struggle to produce right now," Lecavalier said.
He said he has watched video, made sure he and right wing Marty St. Louis are on the same page. He also is guarding against shooting the puck without picking his spot at the net.
The result: "You shoot it right into the goalie's pads."
It is a testament to how well Lecavalier was playing that he entered Friday third in the league with 78 points, including 32 goals. Since Jan. 8, Lecavalier has just 16 points, 12 on assists.
He entered Friday without a goal in seven games and had a potential winner carom off the left pipe on a breakaway with 4:35 left in regulation.
Asked if he has been distracted by the team's struggles or the trades of linemate Vinny Prospal and best friend Brad Richards, Lecavalier said, "Maybe subconsciously, but I don't like to use excuses.
"…I'm paid to play hard, and that's my priority, not to think about other things. There have been some distractions, but you have to battle through them."
By doing the basics.
"It's about bringing the puck to the net, maybe playing better with Marty, talking more on the ice; get aggressive on the puck, be hungry and bring it to the net."
TIME WARP: Defenseman Mike Lundin's playing time has plummeted since Dan Boyle's return. Averaging 13:52 for the season, the rookie averaged 9:36 entering Friday in Boyle's 14 games.
"It's been a learning experience, definitely, learning how to stay focused and keep your legs as warm as you can even though you have a long period when you're not getting a shift," Lundin said. "… But you realize it's probably best for the team those other guys are getting more minutes."
ODDS AND ENDS: Newly acquired center Jeff Halpern led the team with four hits and won nine of 12 faceoffs in 16:28. … Coach John Tortorella said he wants the team to re-sign center Chris Gratton, whose season likely will end after next week's surgery on a torn left hip labrum. … Left wing Andre Roy and wife Karine on Thursday had their second daughter, Eloise. … Defenseman Filip Kuba (knee) was scratched. … Center Junior Lessard made his team debut.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]