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Lightning's Feaster praises Tortorella despite record

BOSTON — Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said it is not fair to judge the coaching staff simply by wins and losses and, in some ways, this season has been coach John Tortorella's best.

That's a mouthful considering Tampa Bay is last in the East (out of the playoffs for the first time since 2001-02) and Tortorella was named coach of the year after the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04.

"I think sometimes, in years like this, coaches do their best coaching," Feaster said. "That's something that's unnoticed because all the outside sees — all the public, the fans see — is what the record is. And that doesn't reflect the kind of work that's being done on a daily basis."

The Lightning has dealt with serious injuries, goalie woes, a young defense that was without Dan Boyle for much of the season and the altering of the roster at the trade deadline.

"From the preparation, the individual meetings, the individual preparation, the individual coaching to try and get players better," Feaster said; "from that standpoint, as far as pure coaching and the teaching aspect of it, this season may have been his finest in doing those kinds of things and having the need to do those kinds of things."

Halpern hurt: Center Jeff Halpern, who has five goals and 10 points in nine games since being acquired as part of the Brad Richards trade, left early in the second with a strained back. He missed the last minutes of the first then left for good after trying to play. His status was unknown.

COMPETITION: Goaltenders Karri Ramo and Mike Smith will split the final 10 games of the season, giving Tortorella the chance to assess who could be the steadying force lacking since Nikolai Khabibulin left via free agency after the Stanley Cup season.

But the decision won't be made from these games alone, Tortorella stressed.

"We tried (Smith) in a back-to-back situation against Carolina (a 5-1 loss on March 1)," Tortorella said. "We wanted to look at situations there, but I am not going to be unfair to him and make assessments of him from a few games. We've got to let him play."

Ramo (5-9-2 with a 3.04 goals-against average) made 20 saves on Tuesday in an 8-4 victory over the Islanders to snap a six-game winless streak. Smith entered Thursday 1-5 with a 3.02 goals-against average since coming to the Lightning as part of the deal for Richards.

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.

Lightning's Feaster praises Tortorella despite record 03/13/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2008 6:24pm]
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