Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning GM: No shake-ups yet

BOSTON — The Lightning is 3-9-1 in its past 13 games, and Thursday's 4-1 drubbing by the Rangers was so bad, general manager Steve Yzerman admitted, "We just look a bit rattled right now and unsure of ourselves and unsure of what we're doing and our responsibilities."

Even so, Yzerman said, "I think we have a pretty good team" and indicated he does not believe it is time for a shake-up despite the team's fall in the standings after a 6-1-0 start.

"We have a good coaching staff, and we have a good group of players," he said. "Things aren't going our way. It's sticking together and finding solutions and working at it. That's the only approach I know."

So, instead of bag skating his players Friday at Boston University's Agganis Arena, coach Guy Boucher, in a little more than an hour practice, mixed intense defensive zone drills and one-on-one puck battles (losers did push-ups) with white-board systems study, and questions and answers. There also was this reminder about today's game with the Bruins at TD Garden:

"If we're not at our very best and at our highest level," Boucher said, "we have no chance. We have to go in there and give ourselves a chance."

"Guy is a great communicator," center Steven Stamkos said. "It's come to the point where everyone, myself included, has to put those words into action. They can't hold our stick and go out there and play the game for us."

• • •

Yzerman said that "in general, you're concerned whenever you lose two in a row," never mind three straight, as the Lightning has, and four of its past five. That includes Thursday's nightmare in which Tampa Bay was embarrassingly outplayed for two periods and outshot 42-25.

But Yzerman pointed out the team is only two points out of the Eastern Conference playoffs and the Southeast Division lead.

"(Thursday's) game wasn't anything anyone feels good about," he said. "But we're in the thick of things (and) we competed hard in a large majority of nights."

That said, the power play has to snap out of a 4-for-44 funk. The team has to find a way to more quickly get possession of the puck in the defensive zone, and it needs more of what Mathieu Garon provided in net against the Rangers.

Is Yzerman feeling pressure to make a trade? "We're always exploring opportunities to try to get better," he said. On the other hand, "teams aren't going to do me a favor just because we're losing. We lose (Thursday) and nobody is happy. To pick up the phone and all of a sudden create this deal is not going to happen."

• • •

When things go badly, questions inevitably surface about a coach and his staff. Yzerman put himself squarely in their corner.

"They're doing all I can ask," he said. "They work hard. They're smart guys. They're committed … and they're looking at ways to get better."

"It's not about falling," Boucher said. "It's about how you're going to get up and how you're going to improve and how you're going to fight through adversity."

It would have been easy Friday for Boucher to put his players through a punishment skate. "But to me, that would have been dumb," he said. "I want to be tough on things we can control."

On the most basic level, that includes the players' battle level and willingness to compete, two areas highly deficient Thursday and pinpointed by Friday's high-tempo workouts. "An intense practice," Stamkos said. "Everybody has to be accountable. We have to change the way we're approaching games and have more desperation. (Friday's) practice was hopefully the start of us knowing how hard we can compete and what is needed to win in this league."

MINOR MOVE: With wing Ryan Malone (lower body) close to returning, wing Richard Panik was reassigned to AHL Syracuse.

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