Looking for a spark, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher juggles lines

SUNRISE — Coach Guy Boucher mixed up his lines Saturday night against the Panthers, saying it was out of necessity.

"I've got to create some kind of second line, some kind of spark somewhere," he said.

That's why C Vinny Lecavalier started the game on a line with Nate Thompson and Adam Hall, and Marty St. Louis joined C Blair Jones and Teddy Purcell.

Boucher has been pleased with how Lecavalier, St. Louis and Steven Stamkos have created scoring chances recently; the trio is responsible for seven of the team's past 11 goals. But in a stretch in which the Lightning has played well defensively, lack of secondary scoring has hurt it as it has lost six of seven. LW Simon Gagne, a two-time 40 goal scorer, scored Saturday for just his second goal in 18 games.

"Our big guns aren't going to score every (game)," said Thompson. "We've got to take it upon ourselves to keep generating chances and finishing opportunities when we have them."

Part of it is a depth problem. The Lightning is playing without two of its top six forwards, injured Ryan Malone and Steve Downie. But secondary scoring earlier this season was a big reason the Lightning put itself at the top of the Southeast Division, with the likes of Sean Bergenheim, Thompson and Dominic Moore racking up goals.

"I don't have a second line," Boucher said. "Gagne is not putting it in, and Purcell is sometimes in, sometimes out. If we would have had secondary scoring the last two weeks, we might be first in the conference right now."

HEADS-UP: At the general managers meetings Monday through Wednesday in Boca Raton, one of the big topics will be how to combat hits to the head and concussions.

Lecavalier said Rule 48, which makes illegal a lateral or blind-side hit that targets the head, has been a good start. He said there are fewer hits from behind — "Between 10 years ago and now, it's like night and day." — and though players have some responsibility to be "doing the right things," more still needs to be done to get rid of head shots.

"I think the main thing is, if there are suspensions for that, it's got to be severe," Lecavalier said. "It's got to make guys, the next time they go on the ice after a suspension, think twice with what they do."

LESSON LEARNED: Boucher has said that in the past, Jones' game has deteriorated quickly after initial strong play. But Jones, in his third callup, said he worked on things in AHL Norfolk and has a "better grasp on what we're trying to do here."

"I've kind of gotten used to knowing I'm not going to be playing heavy minutes like I'm used to in the American league," Jones said. "And it's going to take a little bit of different ways to stay in the game, whether it's talking on the bench or getting a real good warmup before the game. I just have to do some different things to stay in it."

MISCELLANY: C Mattias Ritola returned to the lineup, with D Matt Smaby scratched.

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Looking for a spark, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher juggles lines 03/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 12, 2011 11:30pm]

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