SUNRISE — Coach Guy Boucher shook his head after the Lightning's 5-3 victory over the Panthers Saturday night at the BankAtlantic Center.
"Zero," he said. "I got zero clarity."
Boucher and GM Steve Yzerman have major decisions to make ahead of today's expected cuts and a two-game road trip to finish the preseason schedule for which they want the team largely intact.
It didn't help that several players on the bubble had such good games, especially Mattias Ritola and Brett Connolly.
Ritola's winning goal with 5:20 left in the third period snapped a 3-3 tie. He also had two assists, including a nifty pass that sparked Tom Pyatt's goal that tied the score.
Connolly had a goal that gave him three points, including two assists, in his past three games. He also used his right foot to block a shot that buckled him a bit. He was limping and icing the foot after the game.
"I think I laid it on the line," Connolly said about his chances to survive the cuts. "We'll see what happens."
"It's out of my control," Ritola said.
Among those whose jobs are secure, Ryan Shannon had two assists to give him two goals and four points his past two games. Steve Downie had two assists. Pavel Kubina and Teddy Purcell also scored, and Mathieu Garon made 24 saves as Tampa Bay (2-2-0) won for the second straight game.
Really, though, the spotlight was on the bubble players, and Cory Conacher made sure he wasn't forgotten with an assist and three shots. Dana Tyrell played with energy, and Carter Ashton created a penalty shot, though his sweet backhander hit the underside of the crossbar.
"They all deserve to stay right now," Boucher said. "If we played five more games, I think I'd say the same thing."
IN THE BOX: The Lightning has been shorthanded 22 times in four games, including eight times Friday against the Panthers.
Boucher said he isn't concerned.
"It's the start of the year for the referees, and they're trying to make a statement, too," he said. "If I was them, I'm being told to make sure the standards are followed.
"They're calling what they see, so I have nothing to say about the referees. They're doing their job, and we need to adjust."
PRAISE FOR MODANO: For 17 seasons Yzerman faced off against Mike Modano, so not many can better judge his career, which ended last week with his retirement.
"Just a great all-around player," Yzerman said of the center considered the greatest American player. "Just a tremendous center man and a good penalty killer; a great faceoff man, a great shot, one of the greatest backhands I can think of."
ODDS AND ENDS: Steven Stamkos was an alternate captain for a second straight game. Nate Thompson and Mattias Ohlund also wore A's. … The Lightning does not skate today. … Practice is at 10 a.m. Monday at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon.