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Not having defensemen score or move puck hampers Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning had a good example of what it lacks when it faced the Coyotes last week at the St. Pete Times Forum: offense from its defense.

Consider Phoenix entered Saturday with a league-best 42 goals from its blue line. Only three teams have fewer goals from its defense than Tampa Bay's 22.

This is not only a numbers problem. Lacking a true puck-moving defenseman who can spark the transition puts the Lightning at a terrible disadvantage. It puts extra pressure on forwards who have to do a lot more of the work getting the puck into the offensive zone before even beginning to expend the energy needed to score goals.

That is one reason the team so missed Paul Ranger, out since October because of a personal issue, and considered one of the league's best passers out of the defensive zone. It also is another reason to wonder about the Lightning's inactivity at the trade deadline.

Tampa Bay was challenging for a playoff spot as March 3 approached. The team, according to GM Brian Lawton, had the okay from incoming owner Jeff Vinik to add payroll. But Lawton said he did not like any deal enough to expend draft choices or prospects.

That's great for the Lightning's future, but it left a critical need unfilled in a playoff push, and don't think the players didn't notice, especially after Lawton said making the playoffs was so important.

How important is offense from one's defense? The Coyotes believe it so vital, they acquired Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider at the trade deadline. Both likely rentals, Schneider entered Saturday with two assists in three games for Phoenix. Morris had two in seven.

Who knows if a similar move would have helped Tampa Bay, but it is clear the team has been operating at a disadvantage this season. The Coyotes showed how large.

Not having defensemen score or move puck hampers Tampa Bay Lightning 03/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 20, 2010 8:13pm]
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