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Line rotations latest playoff lesson for Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos

Lightning shows support for … the Twins? Lightning players, from left, Steve Downie, Mike Smith, Teddy Purcell, Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson and Dwayne Roloson talk with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and 1B/DH Justin Morneau before Saturday’s game with the Rays. Roloson and Morneau became friends when Roloson played for the Wild. The Twins gave them hats and T-shirts to wear.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Lightning shows support for … the Twins? Lightning players, from left, Steve Downie, Mike Smith, Teddy Purcell, Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson and Dwayne Roloson talk with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and 1B/DH Justin Morneau before Saturday’s game with the Rays. Roloson and Morneau became friends when Roloson played for the Wild. The Twins gave them hats and T-shirts to wear.

Here's a little secret.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher doesn't necessarily want star center Steven Stamkos to worry about scoring. All he really wants him to do is compete.

If that happens, Boucher said, the goals — and an end to a slump that has produced just five goals in 30 games — will come.

That is why throughout Friday's 5-1 victory over the Penguins in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal, Stamkos was rotated onto different lines.

He played with grinders Nate Thompson and Sean Bergenheim. He played with scorers Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. He got time with third-line center Dominic Moore and top-six forwards Simon Gagne and Steve Downie.

Boucher called it a "learning process," forcing Stamkos to raise his battle level with the grinders before being rewarded with time on the top lines.

"I saw his first two shifts were going hard, so I gave him a little bit," Boucher said. "But then I would take him out just to be sure. I watched how he was after that. 'Oh, he did it again.' "

Of playing on the top lines, Boucher said, "I want him to feel that it's not something he has. It's something he has to get.

"It's a learning process. It's his first NHL playoff. I would have been surprised if he picked it up right away."

This is about more than the playoffs, of course. It is about teaching a 21-year-old how to fight through adversity and create circumstances for success.

It's about teaching a player with 96 goals the past two seasons how to really play the game.

"If you're looking to score, what do you do?" Boucher said. "You stand on the outside, try to get ready for a shot, and that's that.

"I want him to think about competing and fighting, because that's what the playoffs are all about. They're not about skill. They're about everything else but skill. You've got to fight, get to the places and compete, and the results will come."

That is why Boucher loved when Stamkos flattened Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis in a chase for the puck. He loved even more when Stamkos had a terrific scoring chance at the right goalpost.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made the save.

"But he was at the net," Boucher said. "He was already screening there."

"I guess it's a learning process," Stamkos said. "There's a lot I can learn and I can apply to the rest of the series and help the team win."

Line rotations latest playoff lesson for Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos 04/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 16, 2011 10:21pm]
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