Saturday, January 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Pouliot happy with Lightning

TAMPA — LW Benoit Pouliot made it clear he's very happy with where he is with the Lightning, relishing his role as a top-six forward.

Pouliot, 26, whose four-game scoring streak was snapped Thursday, has enjoyed playing on a line with C Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis.

But as Pouliot prepared to face the Bruins, he reflected on how he thought he had had a chance to stick with them before he got traded to the Lightning in June. Pouliot, 2005's fourth overall draft pick, had put together his best season (16 goals, 16 assists) but was told just before the draft he'd be shipped to his fourth team.

"It's always tough when you know you are not coming back … especially when I had a pretty decent year for my role where I played in Boston," said Pouliot, who signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal with Tampa Bay. "That was hard, but at the same time, I'm happy to be here in Tampa and things are going well, so I can't really complain."

TOUGH DECISION: RW Adam Hall returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch Tuesday against Toronto. Coach Guy Boucher said sitting Hall had nothing to do with his play; he is one of the team's best on the penalty kill and faceoffs. But Boucher wanted to see young players RW Richard Panik and D Keith Aulie.

"Very difficult for me," Boucher said. "(Hall is) a great person, a great leader. It's the thing I hate most in this business. I can't stand doing that, but I have to. I have to make tough decisions, and I have to make it for the good of the team."

With Aulie (sick) scratched Thursday, Hall was back, saying he had to take being scratched in stride. "It's all part of being a professional. You know what this game is and what it's all about," he said. "We are all here because we are competitive guys, so there is not a single game goes by that every player in this room wouldn't want to play. I'm no different."

MEDICAL MATTERS: LW Ryan Malone, out since Feb. 10 with a lower-body injury, has said he plans to begin skating with full gear on soon. "He's very close to skating," Boucher said. "I can't give you a time line here, but he's definitely getting better."

PLUS OR MINUS: D Brian Lee entered the game minus-9. Only four NHL players were worse, but Boucher said he is not worried about the stat because it is not a true indication of how Lee has played.

Lee was a minus-1 Thursday, but had a team-high six hits.

"In his case, when we looked at the video, most of those miscues didn't originate from him making a big boo-boo," Boucher said. "It was more a team thing."

Lee, 25, had zero points and 14 penalty minutes entering Thursday and was averaging 13:25 of ice time. He has been a healthy scratch twice. "I'm not going to give you anything to write about because I don't want to hear it," Lee said.

Boucher said since Lee was last scratched, Feb. 7 at New Jersey, he is "focusing on fundamentals rather than trying to do extraordinary things."

MISCELLANY: The Lightning honored founder Phil Esposito, who turned 71 Wednesday. … D Brendan Mikkelson and LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie were also scratched.

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.

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