Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning shows new wrinkle on defense

ESTERO — It was tough to tell if the defensive system the Lightning practiced Tuesday was a radical change from the static 1-3-1 formation it has used so often or just, as D Eric Brewer said, "another club in the golf bag."

Either way, it was interesting to see a more aggressive forecheck and defensemen stepping up at center ice to try to force dump-ins.

"As a player," Brewer said, "you always like to keep moving."

The difference this season is more blue-line speed and experience. Matt Carle and Sami Salo were added as free agents. Brian Lee will be with the team the entire season and Victor Hedman is expected to have a breakout year.

That means an ability to be more aggressive in the offensive zone when opponents try to set up breakouts because of confidence the defense will react appropriately. Tampa Bay on Tuesday sent in a deep forechecker with another slightly back to force puck carriers to a side wall. A third patrolled near the blue line and read the play.

On the back end, one defenseman stepped up at the red line to challenge puck carries. The other chased down the hoped-for dump-ins.

Much different from the 1-3-1 system used last season, when the Lightning, with a much slower back line, many times waited for teams to come to it. Against the Flyers in November, that led to the teams basically staring at each other with Philadelphia at times refusing to move the puck out of its zone.

"Nothing drastic," Brewer said of the new system. "You're just always trying to pressure when you have numbers and be more aware when you don't. For us, it's just clarifying the areas you can be more aggressive."

IN NET: Coach Guy Boucher said he might not decide until Friday night whether to start Anders Lindback or Mathieu Garon in net in Game 1 Saturday at home against the Capitals.

"I'm just trying to let those guys get into game shape," said Boucher, who added, "Come Friday we'll make our decision not necessarily on what we see during the week, but more what our bigger plan is."

PYATT TIME: Tom Pyatt had two goals and three points for the White team in its 3-1 victory over the Blue in a scrimmage of two 20-minute halves.

The forward downplayed the effort, saying it came, after all, in a scrimmage. But Pyatt, who had a career-best 12 goals last season, including seven in his last 25 games, said confidence carries over.

"For me, it's just getting comfortable," he said. "I have more confidence and I'm ready to take on a bigger role."

For now, that appears to be on a third line, perhaps with Benoit Pouliot. The pair clicked Tuesday with each assisting on goals by the other.

"They've shown that they can do some damage," Boucher said.

LINEUP: C Vinny Lecavalier played between Cory Conacher and Teddy Purcell for a second straight day. The line of C Steven Stamkos and wings Marty St. Louis and Ryan Malone also seems set. Adam Hall has been centering a line with Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen. … On defense, the most consistent pairings have been Brewer and Carle, Hedman and Salo, Lee and Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Brendan Mikkelson and Keith Aulie.

ALL ON: All 48 games will be televised: 37 on Sun Sports, six on Fox Sports Florida and five — Feb. 5 and March 18 against the Flyers, and Feb. 24, March 4 and April 11 against the Penguins — shown nationally on NBC Sports Network.

ODDS AND ENDS: D Matt Taormina did not skate; "getting treatment" was what the team said. … Syracuse D Evan Oberg cleared waivers. … Syracuse F Richard Panik was suspended three games for a hit on Rochester F Zegmus Girgensons. … Practice is at 10:30 a.m. today.

Around the league

CANUCKS: David Booth, who has yet to take part in training camp, is out four to six weeks with a groin strain.

FLYERS: Center Claude Giroux was named captain. He takes over from defenseman Chris Pronger, who has not played since Nov. 19, 2011, due to multiple concussions.

RED WINGS: Forward Henrik Zetterberg was chosen as captain, replacing retired defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

OBITUARY: George Gund III, the original owner of the Sharks, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer, the team said. He was 75. Gund and his brother Gordon relinquished their ownership stake in the Minnesota North Stars in 1990 in exchange for the rights to an expansion team in San Jose.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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