TAMPA — Marty St. Louis insists he is not superstitious.
That the Lightning wing likes four pieces of gum in his locker before games; that he has worn the same torn, blue shirt under his jersey for six years; that teammate Vinny Lecavalier said, "You want to do something to him? Take his (stick) tape before a game."
Nope, doesn't mean anything.
"I'm just particular," St. Louis said, grinning. "If something is working, I'm not changing."
That includes a theory it is best not to discuss milestones before they happen, streaks until they run their course and rituals or habits that seem to help the team until they no longer prove useful.
It makes for interviews during which St. Louis and reporters chuckle as the player admits he is not being helpful.
But it also puts into context why he declined to talk about his 900th game until after it was done on Saturday.
And why he answered, "Why talk about it?" when asked about his nine-game points streak, the league's longest current, in which St. Louis has six goals, 10 assists.
"You bring that stuff up, it brings attention," he said. "It starts putting pressure on that particular thing. Sometimes you have to just let stuff happen."
• • •
St. Louis is playing the best he has all season.
He has 16 goals and 49 points in 46 games, but seven goals and 27 points in his past 19 during which he has played fewer than 20 minutes only four times.
At 36 years, 7 months, the six-time All-Star is getting stronger as the season gets longer.
"It's crunch time and he's Mr. Crunch Time, so he's crunching," coach Guy Boucher said.
St. Louis' hat trick Saturday fueled a 6-3 victory over Florida that was a must-win for a team fighting for its playoff life and which tonight faces the Kings at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Don't think St. Louis didn't let reporters know his pregame, no-talk policy had been vindicated.
• • •
St. Louis isn't alone finding comfort being "particular."
Lecavalier likes two chicken breasts with beans and rice before games, and defenseman Bruno Gervais listens to the band Offspring.
Even Boucher, asked Monday about the team's up-trend goaltending, said, "You can't talk about it." There was no wood on which to knock.
St. Louis said he believed by now he would be past such things, but "I'm still stuck in it."
Especially after granting an interview the day before he was to play his 500th consecutive game Dec. 8 in New York only to be sidelined by facial fractures after he was hit in the face by a puck during the morning skate.
"Don't bring attention to things," St. Louis said. "It's like when a guy is wide open and screaming and tapping his stick (for the puck). You bring attention. You're going to get checked. Just let the play happen."
On Jan. 17, with the Lightning losers of seven straight games, St. Louis asked long-time team employee Tommy Gilbert to give players "a word of wisdom" before their game with the Bruins.
Tampa Bay beat the Stanley Cup champions to start a five-game winning streak that featured Gilbert addressing the team after the morning skates of the three games played at the Times Forum.
"I just thought Tommy has been around a long time and I don't think he ever has a bad day. And he loves his Lightning," St. Louis said. "I thought I'd do something fun. We had just lost seven. I was trying to bring some enthusiasm and I know Tommy can do that."
St. Louis asked reporters to not write about the locker-room pep talks until the streak ended, which it did with Thursday's overtime loss to the Jets.
"I know you're trying to do your job," St. Louis said. "I'm trying to make you do it a day later."
No, not superstitious at all.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]