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Lightning seeks to snap 4-game home losing streak

For those who prefer to see the glass half full, there is a way to spin the Lightning's four-game home losing streak so it doesn't seem so bad.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper tried that Friday after the team's optional practice at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, when he pointed out that two of the losses were by shootout, so points were gained for the regulation ties.

Fine, but there still is this bottom line.

"You never want to lose that many at home," defenseman Radko Gudas said.

"No, you don't," Cooper finally admitted, and added, "It's tough."

It's tough because the Lightning had been taking care of business at home with a 14-3-1 start and further solidified itself as an Eastern Conference contender by winning eight of its past 10 on the road.

It's not like the bottom has dropped out — each home loss was by one goal — but as Cooper said, "The problem is now we're using up a little bit of our kitty, so we need to fill the winning jar back up. We can't be dropping these points at home."

So, why hasn't the Tampa Bay Times Forum lately been home sweet home?

Certainly, circumstances have not been kind.

The 2-1 shootout loss to the Canadiens on Dec. 28 and the 4-3 loss to the Rangers the next day were the first games after a three-day holiday break in which teams weren't allowed to skate.

The 4-3 loss to the Capitals on Jan. 9 was the only home game in an eight-game stretch. And Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Islanders was the first game at home after that eight-game sojourn ended with three straight on the road.

But players and coaches also indicated subtle differences have surfaced between the way Tampa Bay lately has played on the road and at home.

On the road, defenseman Victor Hedman said, the team has been "really focused" on sticking to its system and structure.

"We really follow the game plan," he said.

At home, Cooper acknowledged, "human nature" sometimes takes over.

"They try to impress more at home," Cooper said of all teams. "They're trying hard for the fans. And I truly believe the harder you try, sometimes you get out of the structure zone, or the comfort zone, you should be playing in, and things don't go your way."

"I don't know if it's trying to impress them," center Tyler Johnson said of the fans, "but for some reason you might try to make that nice play instead of just getting shots."

"On the road, it's a more meat-and-potatoes game," Johnson added. "You just grind. We've just got to do that more."

Especially today against the Sharks, one of the Western Conference's best teams.

"We just need to make sure we're 100 percent ready at game time," Hedman said. "The way we've been playing on the road has been tremendous. If we keep playing the same way, we're going to find a way to win at home. We want to win in front of our fans."

Lightning seeks to snap 4-game home losing streak 01/17/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 18, 2014 4:42am]

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