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Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Bruno Gervais stays positive as he fights for ice time

Bruno Gervais seems unfailingly happy, always with a smile and eager to talk.

Even when the subject is the Lightning defenseman's lack of playing time.

There is a chance, if Matt Gilroy still is hampered by his lower-body injury, Gervais could play for a second straight game Wednesday in San Jose. But if Gilroy is ready, Gervais likely will be back on the bench, where as a healthy scratch he has spent 21 of Tampa Bay's 32 games.

"You want to play," Gervais said. "You want to be part of it every day, so that part is a little rough. But you've got to make the best of it. I get time to work on all the things you normally don't when you play so much."

It is that sliver-lining attitude that has ingratiated Gervais to teammates and coaches, and in some of his spot duty he has played quite well, with two goals and three points.

But Gervais, 27, coming off his worst NHL season — six assists and minus-14 in 53 games for the Islanders — knew when he signed as a free agent he would have to battle for ice time, and he hasn't been able to stay in the lineup when he has played.

That kind of situation can go one of two ways.

Gervais could have moped, complained to the media and been a disruptive influence in the locker room. Instead, he has handled himself with distinction, going hard on the ice and in the weight room, and skating with the team in warmups, even as a scratch.

"He's one of the most professional individuals I ever met in my life," coach Guy Boucher said. "Smiles all the time, work ethic — outstanding. A team guy like you wouldn't believe."

"A very classy guy," teammate Dominic Moore said. "You see the amount of time he puts in off the ice on a daily basis. He's a very conscientious player. A positive attitude all the time."

Gervais knows how to play — he had six goals, 49 points in 200 games for the Islanders from 2007-10 — and he buys in to Boucher's edict to keep things simple.

But consistency can be a problem when a player is in and out of the lineup. For example, Gervais played well in three games leading to Dec. 10 at Philadelphia, where he made two bad turnovers, one of which led to the Flyers' first goal in a 5-2 loss.

"Instead of pushing (the puck), you bring it back," Gervais said of his goof. "It's such a small thing, and it turns into a big thing."

It was big enough that Gervais played just seven minutes that game, six fewer than his average, and was scratched for the next two games until Gilroy was injured.

"When you don't play a lot, all those little mistakes seem so much bigger," Gervais said. "The thing is, you play and you haven't played for a while, you think you've forgotten what to do, and you overthink it. That's when it gets hard."

Gervais redeemed himself in Saturday's 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets with no turnovers and plus-1 in 14:05 of ice time. Boucher called it a strong game.

"For sure I want to force their hand and stay in the lineup," Gervais said. "It's a long season. I have to stay ready. You never know what's going to happen."

MOVES: With Gilroy and center Nate Thompson (lower body) uncertain for Wednesday, forward J.T. Wyman and defenseman Evan Oberg were called up from AHL Norfolk.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Bruno Gervais stays positive as he fights for ice time 12/19/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011 9:36pm]

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