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Tampa Bay Lightning coaches work to keep players focused in practice at end of miserable season

BOSTON — Assistant coach Wes Walz ran the Lightning's practice Wednesday at Boston University with a simple mandate.

"Bust your (rear ends) all the way up the ice," he yelled.

It's a reminder that at this time of year is appropriate.

With five games left in a miserable season whose only intrigue left is draft position, Tampa Bay's players see golf courses in their future. And though not all have checked out, coach Rick Tocchet said the level of "compete" in the past two games made it obvious some are playing out the string.

In that context, what chance was there for a committed effort during a workout two days before the next game?

"You're trying to get guys to play the right way and keep their focus, and if you don't have a lot of players doing that, it's tough," Tocchet said. "You've got to keep plugging away. If a guy doesn't want to do it and is not competing, at this stage of the season there's really not much you can do other than make his life miserable for two weeks."

One way to keep things fresh is for the dominant voices to take a break, and with Walz in charge, Tocchet and associate coach Mike Sullivan mostly watched from the side boards.

The workout had a back-to-basics theme: skating, passing, getting pucks deep.

Players skated the length of the rink, passing pucks back and forth. They rotated inside the blue line, gave a pass, took a pass and made a shot.

There was a tip drill, two-on-twos and two sets of sprints in which players skated the length of the rink three times.

"It never ends," wing Adam Hall said. "Every day you're always trying to accomplish something."

Wednesday's objective?

"Get some conditioning, get your work in, a detail kind of practice," Hall said.

For right wing Marty St. Louis, it was simpler: "Get a sweat."

Either way, forward Ryan Craig said, "You can't just put in your time. It's work. We're just trying to reiterate the basic stuff so you can win hockey games."

With Tampa Bay on a 1-4-3 streak, that hasn't happened much lately.

Even so, Tocchet said, "You have to get rejuvenated every day and come to work for something. If you're looking at the process, to win something, it's a long journey. Maybe we have to take our licks now to achieve that goal."

RESTING: Defensemen Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby and Richard Petiot, and center Vinny Lecavalier sat out for "body maintenance."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Tampa Bay Lightning coaches work to keep players focused in practice at end of miserable season 04/01/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 2, 2009 6:32am]
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