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Mathieu Garon rides hot streak into lead role with Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon stays focused after getting knocked down Nov. 26 against Florida.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon stays focused after getting knocked down Nov. 26 against Florida.

What is happening right now with the Lightning's goaltending is simply part of the "normal" ebb and flow of a season, Mathieu Garon said.

Garon, these days, is getting a lot more work than struggling No. 1 Dwayne Roloson.

"But in the next few weeks, it might be Roli," Garon said. "So I don't want to focus on that too much."

Still, the shift is difficult to ignore.

Garon has played in six straight games (five starts and one in relief) and is expected to start tonight against the Sharks at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

He has played in 10 of Tampa Bay's past 12 games, going 5-5-0 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. Roloson has lost his past five starts with a 5.25 goals-against average and .829 save percentage.

In other words — and considering the Lightning with Garon in net has won two straight for the first time since Nov. 25-26 — naming a starter seems obvious.

"Mathieu has been very good for us," goaltenders coach Frantz Jean said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. He shows up every day for work and is a very positive influence in the room. We're very happy with what he's done up to now."

Garon could do without the hubbub.

Asked how he played the past two games, he said, "It's not like they were my best games," and he went on to discuss how rebounds were a problem and that he was disappointed in Columbus' second goal Saturday in the Lightning's 3-2 victory because he was slow to react to a wraparound.

That honesty, Jean said, makes Garon, 33, in his 11th season and a member of the 2008-09 Stanley Cup Penguins, "a fun guy to work with.

"His analysis of himself is true," Jean added. "So, when you approach him with something you see as a coach, he's very open and he's already noticed it."

Such as the circumstances of Rick Nash's wraparound goal.

"I didn't push (to the opposite goal post) right away," Garon said. "I expected him to come for a pass on the other side so I was a little too patient."

"He's right," Jean said. "A lot of goalies in the league try to anticipate the play. When you do you kind of put your eggs in one basket. The best play for him was to get back up and get to the post on his skates. He would have been in control of the play."

What Garon has control of are his emotions.

"The only pressure I see is our team has to win games," he said.

And when Philadelphia's Danny Briere said the scouting report on Garon is to shoot high, Garon said, "Every player and goalie in the league has a scouting report, so it's not something I pay attention to."

It is true, though, Garon's strength is stopping low shots around the net. He also is a "contortionist," Jean said.

"So even when he seems out of the play, he's so flexible he's able to get that pad out and get loose pucks."

But at 8-8-1 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .905 save percentage, Garon is a realist.

"There's still a lot of work to do," he said. "I want to take this one game at a time."

Or until Roloson gets hot.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

Garon getting best of it

Mathieu Garon was brought in as a backup but his numbers have outshone Dwayne Roloson's:

GaronRoloson
21GP17
8-8-1W-L-OT6-8-1
2.75GAA3.67
.905SV%.882



Marty St. Louis back practicing

Lightning star right wing Marty St. Louis practiced with the team Tuesday for the first time since sustaining facial fractures when hit by a puck during a Dec. 8 morning skate. St. Louis, who has missed five games, skated with a full cage mask. Coach Guy Boucher reiterated that he does not expect St. Louis back before Christmas. The team has a two-game road trip tonight at San Jose and Friday at Colorado. "I feel encouraged," St. Louis said.

Mathieu Garon rides hot streak into lead role with Tampa Bay Lightning 12/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 12:16am]

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