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Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet wants team to brush off early goals

BRANDON — Through seven games the Lightning has yet to score first.

"It's always nice to get the first goal," coach Rick Tocchet said.

At the same time, he doesn't want not scoring the first goal to be such a big deal.

Tocchet said he saw heads hang after the Senators scored first in Thursday's 7-1 loss, and C Jeff Halpern said he saw it after Pittsburgh scored first in Saturday's 4-1 loss.

"Do I feel we have to get mentally stronger as a team? Yeah," Tocchet said Tuesday at the Ice Sports Forum. "This is the NHL. This isn't for babies.

"Things are going to happen in games and things are going to happen during the season. You just have to dust yourself off and meet it head-on. I don't want people hiding and feeling sorry for ourselves."

Halpern said players need to be vocal on the bench to keep spirits up.

"But a better response would be to do something about it," he said. "A good shift, a big hit to get something going and let the other guys know we're still in the game."

"Just because a team scores doesn't mean you change your game and all of a sudden you get discombobulated," Tocchet said. "You want great starts, but it might go off somebody's shin in the net. That's life. You can't change your thought process because someone gets a goal."

LOSING SLEEP: It isn't losing linemate Vinny Lecavalier that is bugging LW Alex Tanguay, it is the way he is playing.

"I don't care who he plays me with. Whatever he feels is going to help the team is fine by me," Tanguay said about Tocchet's retooling of the forward lines. "I just feel that I'm not contributing. I'm not helping the team right now. But it's a long season, so I'll just keep working on my game."

Tanguay, expected to play with Halpern and Drew Miller Thursday against the Sharks, has zero goals and just six shots in seven games. Tocchet has said Tanguay appears "out of whack."

"Things have always turned around," Tanguay said. "It's certainly tough to sleep right now, but it's part of the game, I guess."

GROWING PAINS: Victor Hedman has gotten raves this season, but the rookie defenseman admitted he took a step back the past two games.

"I need to work on a couple of things," he said.

Mainly with game management, such as judging better when to jump into the offensive zone and try to make a play.

"Last game I got frustrated when we were down and I tried to do things I shouldn't have," Hedman said. "I was trying a little too much and I got beat."

Hedman was a combined minus-3 in his past two games after being plus-2 in his first five.

"I have to change that and be patient all the time," Hedman said. "I have to bounce back on the right track again like the whole team."

SMITTY IN NET: Mike Smith will be back in net against the Sharks, Tocchet said. The coach said he is not sure how he will split the work between Smith and Antero Niittymaki during this two-week stretch with just four games, but it likely won't be two apiece.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet wants team to brush off early goals 10/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 8:26pm]
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