NASHVILLE — Lightning general manager Brian Lawton said Monday that one victory in nine games was no reason to panic. But coach Rick Tocchet on Tuesday revealed the urgency to turn things around by benching LW Alex Tanguay and C Jeff Halpern and indicating more top players could have the same fate.
With LW Todd Fedoruk also scratched, eight defensemen played against the Predators with Kurtis Foster and David Hale on a fourth line with C Zenon Konopka.
"Maybe this will shock a lot of people, I don't know," Tocchet said before the game. "Honestly, I don't care. We have to get this thing straightened out."
"We lose because teams are better than us, you can live with that. But there are some games we were outplaying a team and for whatever reason we just went the other way. It's mind-boggling and it's not going to happen any more. If I have to play a defenseman at center because we don't have a guy doing a job, we're going to do it until we do other things. But right now, I can only control the guys that are here."
Tocchet said the benchings are for one game. If poor play continues, there could be a rotation.
"I don't like the trend with certain individuals and the team," he said. "It's probably my fault for letting it go the last three or four games. Sometimes you put the onus on the players and certain people to straighten it out. But ultimately it's on my (behind) to, hopefully, have 19 guys going, not just 11 or 12."
Tanguay's benching is clearly about his play: four goals with zero in 14 games.
"Alex has to get in position of tracking the right way and slashing across the ice," Tocchet said. "It's one game. He'll get back in, but he has to take a step back and clean up his game."
Halpern's situation is more mysterious. Tocchet said the benching was for "a team thing between me and him" that was "kind of" disciplinary, though did not involve team rules.
"It's a one-game thing. He knows it and we're ready to move on from it," Tocchet said.
Halpern, a 10-year player who said he had not been scratched since his third, said only that Tocchet's characterization was "fair."
Tanguay was upset about sitting: "What's there to say? I try my hardest. I guess it's not good enough. The team is slumping and I'm a big part of it."
"Whether it's a shock thing for everybody, I really don't care what the message is other than we need results," Tocchet said. "We have to be able to play 60 minutes, not 30 minutes and, because we're down a goal, everybody does their own program. We're going to find guys who can stick with the plan."
WINGIN' IT: Hale said the best way to play his first NHL game at forward was "to be clear on where to go" and "get the puck deep and go to work."
Foster, who played several games up front, offered advice: "Keep it as simple as possible. Get it out at the blue line and in at the red line. We can't turn over the puck."
Hale played 10:08 with two shots and zero giveaways.
ODDS AND ENDS: RW Steve Downie left the game in the second after hitting his head on the ice at the end of a fight with Shea Weber. He said he is okay. … The Predators' seven goals were a season high. … C Blair Jones was recalled from AHL Norfolk for the third time since Dec. 3. … D Lukas Krajicek played his 300th NHL game, his first since clearing waivers Saturday.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.