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Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher says early power-play stats misleading

BIG IMPRESSION: Carter Ashton, scoring against Chicago, has made coach Guy Boucher a fan.

Associated Press

BIG IMPRESSION: Carter Ashton, scoring against Chicago, has made coach Guy Boucher a fan.

CALGARY — After a 1-for-10 performance in Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Oilers, the Lightning is 2-22 on the power play in three preseason games, a 9 percent success rate.

Taken on their face, the numbers are terrible, but coach Guy Boucher said the statistics are misleading.

"The only real power play we sent out there was in the second game," Boucher said after Friday's practice at South Alberta Institute of Technology. "Even then, it was their first night out, and we could have scored (on) four power plays."

Boucher has a point.

The top unit of Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina was dangerous Wednesday against the Blackhawks. And though it came up empty on seven shifts, it hit three posts and missed four shots at empty nets.

The other units generally have been mix-and-match, not to mention that a four-game, five-night road trip plays havoc with practice schedules.

Besides, Boucher said, "It's the process right now. It's getting all these pieces working at the same time, and it will take a little while."

The next chance is tonight against the Flames at Pengrowth Saddledome. The first unit is scheduled to play, and the Lightning (2-1-0) wraps up its trip.

"We practiced the power play once," Boucher said, "and we didn't practice it with the same players except for the (first unit), and the one we did with the same players, I actually loved it that way. So the rationale is the process has started. It's not where we want it to be, but it's in the right direction."

INJURIES: D Randy Jones is out at least a week with a fractured right thumb from blocking a shot against the Oilers. C Marc Pouliot is day-to-day with an upper-body injury from the same game, and G Dan Ellis skipped Friday's workout for what the team said was "body maintenance."

Add previous injuries to G Mike Smith (finger) and D Matt Smaby (concussion), and head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan and his staff are busy. But Boucher said he is not concerned.

"No, because they're not really injuries," he said. "They're minor boo-boos. If it was the playoffs, all the players would play. We're okay, except for Smith. But if it was the playoffs, Smith would play, too."

CUTS: The training camp roster was trimmed to 49. Forwards Brett Connolly, Carter Ashton and Richard Panik were sent back to juniors: Connolly to Prince George and Ashton to Regina in the Western league, and Panik to Belleville in the Ontario league.

Connolly, drafted sixth overall in June, showed skills but needs to get stronger and improve his speed. Panik, also skilled, needs consistency.

Ashton, 20, a 2009 first-round pick who in consecutive games against the Blackhawks and Oilers scored from in front of the net, is clearly the most advanced.

"He did a great job in front of the net," Boucher said of the 6-foot-3, 220 pounder. "He's a big boy, he can skate, and there's not a lot of those guys around. He's a real power forward. He's the real deal. He's going to be a good player."

MORE CUTS: GM Steve Yzerman said he likely will make a significant roster cut Sunday, though final reductions might not come until the first week of October.

ODDS AND ENDS: Team radio play-by-play announcer Dave Mishkin will call tonight's game on lightning.nhl.com. … Nick Boynton's one-game, regular-season suspension for the throat-slashing motion the Blackhawks forward directed at C Blair Jones on Wednesday is official.

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher says early power-play stats misleading 09/24/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 24, 2010 10:35pm]
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