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Tampa Bay Lightning among NHL leaders in shots blocked per game

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Here, look at this, Marty St. Louis said.

With that, the Lightning left wing, at his locker after Tuesday's practice, pulled off the legging on his left leg to reveal a shin pad with a clean, 1-inch vertical crack. "Dustin Byfuglien," St. Louis said, referring to the Thrashers defenseman whose shot bruised St. Louis through his pad in the season's first game.

It is damage St. Louis gladly accepts. In fact, he called it "pretty cool."

"You want to win games, you have to pay the price," he said. "Sometimes, it's blocking shots."

Tampa Bay (7-2-1), which entered today leading the Eastern Conference, has done plenty of that. Entering Tuesday, it was tied for fifth in the league with an average 15.2 blocks per game. In its past two games, it had 39 blocks combined. But perhaps more revealing is that no Lightning player is in the top 20 in the league in total blocks or average.

"It's not just one or two guys," defenseman Brett Clark said. "It's a full team effort. Everyone has bought in, and everybody is paying the price."

What does it take to block shots? First, consider the strength of today's players. Add lightweight graphite sticks that make 100-mph slap shots common, and it's no wonder Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher, only half joking, said of getting in front of a puck, "You've got to be nuts."

On the other hand, assistant coach Dan Lacroix said, "It's a courageous play anyone can do."

"Just get in the way," St. Louis said.

More specifically, Lacroix said, "Take time and space away. Even good players don't like to make plays under pressure. They're going to hit shin guards (with shots) if you're closer to them than if you're farther away."

But Clark, with a team-best 22 blocks and who in 2008-09 was second in the league with an Avalanche-record 238, said, "It's all timing."

"It's being in the right place at the right time," he said. "You have to get in the shot lanes, see where the guy's stick and puck is. Players are so good now at making that one step around you, you have to be able to read what the other guy is thinking."

And be willing to tolerate pain.

"Oh, yeah, it's going to hurt," Clark said.

Ask defenseman Victor Hedman, who during Saturday's 3-0 victory over the Coyotes had a precautionary X-ray on his left foot after being hit by a shot. "You need a strong mentality," said Hedman, who will play tonight against the Ducks at the Honda Center. "If you're scared of blocking shots, you're not going to help anyone. It's going to hurt. That's hockey."

Blocking shots cuts down on scoring chances and puts deflected pucks in places easier for the defense to clear. Goaltender Dan Ellis said it also cuts down on his wear and tear.

"That's a few less times we have to go up and down and move side to side," he said.

St. Louis, whose 16 blocks are tied for second on the team with defenseman Randy Jones, said blocks also are contagious: "When you see guys giving up their bodies for the betterment of the team, it definitely motivates you to get out there and do the same."

Despite the potential damage to equipment or self.

"There's a price for everything," St. Louis said. "Are you willing to pay it?"

STAMKOS HONORED: Center Steven Stamkos was named the NHL's October player of the month with a league-best 19 points on nine goals, including two winners, and 10 assists in 10 games. Stamkos is the fourth Tampa Bay player to be player of the month. The others: Vinny Lecavalier in March and November 2007, St. Louis in January and February 2004, and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin in March and October 2003.

.Fast facts

Puck stops here

The league's top shot-blocking teams, by average per game, entering Tuesday:

Team Games No. Avg.

Rangers 11 223 20.3

Thrashers 11 188 17.1

Hurricanes 11 178 16.2

Canadiens 11 172 15.6

Lightning 10 152 15.2

Blue Jackets 10 152 15.2

Flyers 12 182 15.2

Lightning's

top shot blockers:

Players No.

Brett Clark 22

Randy Jones 16

Marty St. Louis 16

Victor Hedman 15

Mike Lundin 12

Tonight

Lightning at Ducks

When/where: 10; Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif.

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

Key stats: The Lightning penalty kill entered Tuesday third in the league at 90.7 percent (39-of-43) and has killed 15 of 16 penalties in its past four games. … The Ducks had the league's worst home penalty kill, 61.5 percent (8-of-13). … Anaheim's 41 goals against were second most in the league. … C Steven Stamkos has a six-game points streak (five goals, eight assists).

Tampa Bay Lightning among NHL leaders in shots blocked per game 11/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 11:25pm]
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