Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Boucher has lineup dilemma

TAMPA — Coach Guy Boucher faced a dilemma during the five-game winning streak on which the Lightning rode before Saturday's loss to the Rangers:

How do you get players such as RW Pierre-Cedric Labrie and D Marc-Andre Bergeron into the lineup without disrupting team chemistry or benching a player who doesn't deserve it?

"Every day I feel like putting them in," Boucher said before the game. "The problem I've got is we've won five in a row with this lineup. I've got nobody in there I can take out. It's really the fact that everyone that's been playing has done the job. No one has given me an excuse to pull them out."

Bergeron has played two of eight games for a total 14 minutes, 15 seconds. Labrie played only Jan. 21 against the Islanders, with 4:54 of ice time and five minutes in the penalty box.

"Labrie would have been great" against the Rangers, Boucher said, "big body, big team. But a guy like (RW Dana) Tyrell has been unbelievable. I hate to make other people pay just so the other one gets a share of the pie. I try to look for some excuse before I do that, but I don't have any."

"I take the positive side," said Labrie, 26, who was promoted from AHL Syracuse out of training camp. "I work out to get stronger, faster, so every time I jump out on the ice every day, I feel better and when they tell me I'm in, I'm all in. It's a different mind-set, but I learn so much."

LITTLE STEPS: Brendan Mikkelson was back on the ice two days after a scary crash into the end boards during Thursday's practice.

"I felt okay," said the defense­man, who skated Saturday morning, "a little sore but a lot better than (Friday)."

Mikkelson said he has only right-shoulder soreness and upper-body stiffness after sliding hard head- and shoulder-first into the boards and briefly being knocked unconscious.

"I got folded up there pretty good," Mikkelson said. "I think all the bones and joints just need a chance to decompress."

REMEMBER: As part of the Lightning's 20th anniversary celebration, there were video tributes during the first period for former Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella and former Lightning center Brad Richards, both with the Rangers.

"It's always going to be my first team and my first organization, no matter how many times or what day it is," said Richards, the MVP of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup playoffs for the title-winning Lightning.

Tortorella, as usual, declined to discuss the tribute or the resurgence of Lightning C Vinny Lecavalier, saying, "I don't talk about the other team."

About Lecavalier, one of his best friends, Richards said, "He looks great. We all know how things can open up for you and you see things differently when there's confidence and you feel like you're helping."

ODDS AND ENDS: C Steven Stamkos has an eight-game points streak, tied for the league best. … Stamkos' five-game goal streak tied the Sharks' Patrick Marleau for the league high. … RW Marty St. Louis has assists in five straight games. … RW B.J. Crombeen (left foot) was on crutches before the game. He played, and Boucher said he has no limitations. … G Henrik Lundqvist, who sat in favor of Marty Biron, had started 27 of the Rangers' past 28 games against Tampa Bay.

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