Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet searches for causes of late unraveling

CHICAGO — The Lightning was consistent in one aspect during a streak in which it has lost eight of nine games.

"It just seems like the first 30 minutes is fine and then everything unravels," coach Rick Tocchet said before Sunday night's 4-0 loss to the Blackhawks. "And it's not just one guy. It could be four shifts in a row. It could be three pairs of defensemen.

"It's at the point, now, it gets alarming. A few games, okay, we'll get them back on track. But now it's to a point of a team unraveling six, seven games. We have to stop the bleeding right now."

Tocchet couldn't put his finger on the causes, but he identified an effect. Tampa Bay has just 20 power plays in its six previous games, which contributed to scoring just 13 goals during the nine-game downturn.

"Are we going to the net enough?" Tocchet said. "To get penalties you have to go to contact areas. If you play an outside game, the odds of getting penalties are decreased. We have to generate some penalties. How do you do that? Go through people, go to the net, hit. That's where you get dragged down. That's where you get hooked. If you sit around the boards all night, there's no reason for a team to take a penalty."

Tocchet said he would "welcome disagreement" with his assessment when the team watches video.

"Show me on the video what you see and disagree," he added. "I would love some kind of interaction, but the players don't because they see the same thing."

LEFT LEANING: Knowing when to jump into the offensive flow is crucial for a defenseman, and Tocchet said rookie Victor Hedman has dramatically improved.

"Maybe a month, a few weeks ago, he was going any time he wanted, and that's why he was getting caught," he said. "Now, he's recognizing the right time to go."

Tocchet and Hedman agreed switching him to the left side of the blue line has helped. Hedman, a left-handed shot, had been on the right side because Tampa Bay has only two right-shooting defensemen.

"It seems like I'm seeing the ice much better on the left side," said Hedman, who has nine shots in his past five games compared to seven in his previous 10. "I played left D back home (in Sweden) for many years. As long as I play, it doesn't matter, but, absolutely, I feel much more confident on the left side."

HEADING HOME: D Matt Walker played his first game at the United Center since leaving the Blackhawks to sign with the Lightning. But because he only played one season with Chicago, he said his emotions aren't the same as when he played for the first time in St. Louis after five years with the Blues before moving on to the 'Hawks.

"You know so many people around the building, and know so many faces, security guards," Walker said of St. Louis, where Tampa Bay plays Friday. "It's different playing there."

ODDS AND ENDS: Chicago's Marian Hossa has been a Lightning killer. His goal and assist Sunday gives him 23 goals and 55 points in 49 career games against Tampa Bay. … Defensemen David Hale and Lukas Krajicek were scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet searches for causes of late unraveling 12/13/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 13, 2009 10:27pm]

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