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Lightning power-play woes start at drop of puck

SUNRISE — There has been plenty of analysis why the Lightning's power play has sputtered; it entered Monday 8-for-75 in its previous 24 games.

But coach Jon Cooper said it might come down to this: the team doesn't win enough power-play faceoffs, a mediocre 45.7 percent (58 of 127) during the skid. Saturday against the Hurricanes, Tampa Bay lost 8 of 13.

"Atrocious," Cooper called it.

Cooper said at least 15 seconds of attack time is lost for every faceoff defeat.

"And that's if you get back into (the offensive zone) clean," he said. "What if you don't get in clean? Now you're looking at 30 (seconds)."

By then, Cooper said, the power-play unit "that's been skating in circles" is tired and most likely facing a fresh penalty-kill unit, "and your chances of scoring go down even more."

"It's a big deal," Cooper said. "It's a huge part of the game."

What can be done? The easy answer is centers must be better, and at least create puck battles if they aren't going to win draws. Cooper said he might commit another player to the initial puck pursuit.

But, assistant coach George Gwozdecky said, centers also must be better before the faceoff communicating where they are trying to put the puck.

"There are times we'll change our strategy in mid stream but we're not communicating that," Gwozdecky said. "One guy thinks we're going somewhere and the other guy things we're going somewhere else and we get a little lost in that."

This is where Tampa Bay really misses injured C Steven Stamkos, Cooper said.

"I don't know if he smelled the blood, but he would dig his heels in on those faceoffs," Cooper said. "We miss that."

Medical matters: Eric Brewer (believed to have an arm injury) did not play Monday against the Panthers. Cooper said he hopes the defenseman misses only one game. … Tampa Bay's injury list is at five, including Stamkos (leg), Ryan Malone (ankle), Keith Aulie (hand) and Brian Lee (knee).

Reentry: Rookie Mark Barberio was in the lineup after consecutive games as a scratch and three of four games in which he did not play 10 minutes.

"I'm just trying to find consistency," said Barberio, who entered Monday with two assists in 20 games and an average 13:54 of ice time. "Some games I'm feeling good and plays are working. Other times I'm a bit jittery or nervous with the puck."

"Sometimes you get a different perspective when you sit upstairs," Cooper said. "One thing is you realize you have a little more time than you think you do out there. You just hope he's digesting that."

Reunion: No firm dates, but there likely will be a reunion of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup team the weekend of March 14 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. That Canucks and former Lightning coach John Tortorella is coming to town for a March 17 game is driving the planning.

Odds and ends: All teams are off (no practices, travel or games) today through Thursday. … Tampa Bay on Monday played with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. … Forwards Richard Panik and P.C. Labrie were scratched.

Lightning power-play woes start at drop of puck 12/23/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 23, 2013 10:53pm]
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