Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's minds in 'right place'

BRANDON — The most obvious thing Lightning coach Guy Boucher could have done Friday was put his players through a grueling offday skate.

Then perhaps have a meeting to discuss the sputtering power play or the defensive gaffes that have led to so many goals or the scoring that has all but dried up from the team's top players.

Instead, to address Tampa Bay's six-game losing streak and today's game with the Panthers at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Boucher planned pretty much nothing at the Ice Sports Forum.

A few players skated; many worked in the gym.

"They're ready to go," Boucher said. "That's why I didn't want to have a practice. I didn't want to have a big meeting and drill them. They already know."

Indeed they do.

"It's time for a little concern," defenseman Sami Salo said. "It's severe. Nobody is happy losing so many games in a row. You can't just turn the page by pressing a button."

"We've got to stop the bleeding," right wing Marty St. Louis said, "no doubt."

The reasons why the team is struggling are well known.

Turnovers and defensive mistakes lead the way, and goaltenders Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon are allowing a bad goal per game.

The power play is 2-for-18 during the losing streak, part of an overall offensive drought in which St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, Cory Conacher and Teddy Purcell have combined for just five goals.

And there simply are not enough shots on goal. The Lightning has been outshot in five straight games and nine out of 13 for the season.

"Guys are working hard," Stamkos said. "There's no question about work ethic. It's just making smarter decisions on the ice and, when things aren't going well, trying not to let things snowball. Everyone in here still believes we're a good team in this league. We have to find a way to snap out of this."

Especially considering the lockout-shortened 48-game season has just 35 games remaining and the Lightning, after a 6-1-0 start, is 6-6-1, four points behind first-place Carolina in the Southeast Division and two points out of a playoff spot.

"We're all disappointed where we're at," St. Louis said. "We feel like we wasted a good start. But we're fighting here. We're trying to plug away and keep finding answers."

The trick will be making sure players remain determined until there are positive results. Boucher said he met with the players Wednesday and Thursday about that subject.

"It's that mental and emotional fight that we're trying to win," he said and added, "I'm glad you tell me the players' minds are in the right place."

They are for now, anyway, which is why St. Louis said he welcomed what turned out to be an easy Friday.

"Sometimes when people are frustrated, it's better to let the dust settle," he said. "We're going to find out a lot about each other the next little while. Our backs are against the wall."

BOUNCING BACK: Lindback, who did not make Thursday's scheduled start against the Capitals because of an illness he described as a 24-hour bug, skated Friday and said he believed he would be ready to play against the Panthers.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected] View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.

 
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