Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning to Teddy Purcell: Shoot!

PITTSBURGH — There have been times this season that Lightning center Valtteri Filppula was so frustrated with Teddy Purcell's reluctance to shoot the puck, he really let Purcell know.

Goaltender Ben Bishop, who has known Purcell since they played together at the University of Maine, hasn't been afraid to speak up, either.

"He has such a great shot," Filppula said.

It's just that "sometimes," Bishop said, "you have to pound it into his head to use it."

Like he did during Thursday's 5-4 victory over the Senators in which Purcell took a team-most seven shots and scored twice, something he hadn't done since Nov. 25 against the Rangers.

Purcell, with 12 goals this season, hadn't scored in 19 games before Thursday and had just three goals in his previous 45 games.

Here's a clue as to why: Purcell, 28, a wing, has just 138 shots in 70 games, an average of 1.97. Teammate Steven Stamkos, out four months with a broken right tibia, has 86 shots in 25 games, an average of 3.44.

Purcell acknowledges he has to shoot more and called his reluctance "a bad habit ever since I was a kid."

Unselfishness is a noble trait, and Purcell, by all accounts a terrific teammate, has admitted wanting to keep his linemates and buddies happy by feeding them the puck.

And it's not as if Purcell is invisible. His 28 assists are fourth on the team, and even with his lack of goals, he is plus-2.

But for a player who might have the best wrist shot on the team, and for one just starting a new three-year, $13.5 million contract, a more me-first vibe would be welcomed.

"That's what we need," coach Jon Cooper said. "We need everybody to click. You just can't rely on the same guys game in and game out. He's got it in him, there's no question. The kid has got a shot."

And a track record of 24 goals and 65 points in 2011-12.

Perhaps that is why Cooper stuck with Purcell —- bouncing him from line to line but keeping him on the power play — when even the player admitted he wondered during his drought if he would become a healthy scratch.

Purcell, now on a line with Stamkos and wing Tyler Johnson, said he has tried to stay upbeat. And Cooper praised Purcell's ability to "keep the locker room light."

"It's easier said than done," Purcell said of keeping his head up. "You're not really in rhythm when you're not as confident as you should be.

"You've just got to stay positive and realize every player in the league, except maybe (Stamkos), goes through it. You just have to try to get lucky and keep grinding away."

Luck had nothing to do with Purcell's two goals against the Senators. One came on a quick snap shot, the other from in front of the net after outhustling defenseman Erik Karlsson.

That kind of determination will come in handy today against the powerful Penguins at Consol Energy Center.

The key, though, is generating shots. Purcell's seven against the Senators was as many as he had in his previous 10 games.

"I've gotten some looks lately," he said, "and maybe I'm shooting (the puck) a little quicker than holding on to it a little too long."

"I feel like he plays the game the right way," Filppula said. "He just needs to shoot more."

 
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