BRANDON — It was difficult to tell Sunday if Lightning coach Guy Boucher was serious about giving C Steven Stamkos an assignment on right wing.
Nine players, including four forwards, missed practice at the Ice Sports Forum because of varying degrees of injury, so the line of C Dominic Moore between Stamkos and Marty St. Louis might have been out of necessity.
But Boucher stuck with the line while changing up others. And though he first said the line was because of the lack of bodies, he also said Moore "deserved" to play there because "he's been our best player the past two weeks."
Boucher did not say the move was to help get Stamkos out of a slump, in which he has one goal in 11 games. In fact, he said adding Moore to the line would help Stamkos and St. Louis defensively as both are minus-6 in their past six games.
"He's our best two-way player," Boucher said of Moore. "He's giving us some offense. He's given us defense. He's given us urgency."
"I don't think about any of that stuff," said Moore, who has two goals and three points in his past three games. "I just play."
But what if Stamkos, whose 41 goals still lead the league by seven, was moved to wing for tonight's Southeast showdown with the Capitals?
He played the position during the All-Star Game — and scored a goal he was quick to point out — and a little bit at the 2008 world junior championship.
"We'll see what happens," Stamkos said. "But with the defensive coverage we play — first guy back and closest guy goes to the puck — there's really no center and wing. So there's not much of an adjustment … maybe a little bit on breakouts."
Give Stamkos, 21, credit for facing his slump head on.
Other than his rookie season, he calls the past 11 games "my roughest stretch." He called his eight shots in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Canadiens "a positive" and said of his scoring touch, "It's going to come."
"I want to be counted on as someone who can create those offensive chances," he added. "You feel like you're not doing your part a little bit. It's tough. It's frustrating when you're not winning. It magnifies that on yourself as well."
Stamkos says he is not obsessing and tries to leave it at the rink.
"Usually, I'm home watching the highlights and stuff," he said. "Lately, I just go home and relax. I have a couple of buddies in town. They usually bring me some luck. We'll see."
HURTING: Expected out against the Capitals are defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron (back spasms) and Mike Lundin (abdomen) and forwards Steve Downie (ankle) and Ryan Malone (stomach).
Bergeron played Saturday after missing two games but had just 9:10 of ice time.
"We played him," Boucher said. "But looking back, we probably shouldn't have."
Those who did not practice for what the team called "body maintenance" but are expected to play were defensemen Victor Hedman, Pavel Kubina and Mattias Ohlund and forwards Nate Thompson and Dana Tyrell.
STARTING BLOCKS: Boucher doesn't want a repeat of Saturday, when Tampa Bay sleepwalked through the first period and fell behind 2-0.
"They didn't come to play," he said. "They didn't come to compete."
"We have to be honest with each and every one of us in our effort for 60 minutes," St. Louis said. "Individually, we have to bring our best from the get-go."
The Capitals offer an opportunity. They have been outscored 52-39 in the first period.
"It's urgency," C Vinny Lecavalier said. "We have to come out like I know we can, how our fans know we can — on top of teams, first on the puck, pucks on net. That's how we have to do it."