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Tampa Bay Lightning eager for more home games after struggles on the road

The Avalanche’s Ryan O’Reilly, left, is called for tripping Steven Stamkos in the Lightning’s 2-1 overtime loss Friday. The Lightning didn’t score on the power play, one of its key road problems.

Associated Press

The Avalanche’s Ryan O’Reilly, left, is called for tripping Steven Stamkos in the Lightning’s 2-1 overtime loss Friday. The Lightning didn’t score on the power play, one of its key road problems.

DENVER — The Lightning has been on the road so much this season, it is more accustomed to hotel rooms than its own beds.

Add to that injuries, and Tampa Bay's 13th-place standing in the Eastern Conference is understandable.

"Yes, 21 games on the road and all these injuries, there's been so much adversity," coach Guy Boucher said. "Yes, we do have to capitalize on those home games."

The Lightning (14-17-3) gets a chance to do that soon. The league concludes a two-day Christmas break today, and when Tampa Bay resumes play Tuesday, it has its next three games at home.

At times, the travel's toll has shown. The Lightning's power play has been nearly nonexistent on the road, and in its past 10 away games it has gone 3-for-33 with the man advantage, including 0-for-3 in Friday's 2-1 overtime loss at Colorado.

"We're 20-something percent at home (on the power play), and we're 7 percent on the road," Boucher said. "That's what it's been since the beginning of the year. We're looking for rebound shots, and we're still shooting at the guy's head, going for top corners and missing the net. Until we look for these rebound shots, we're going to have the same results."

Tampa Bay produced quality chances on the power play against the Avalanche but couldn't cash in. One goal in that situation — especially with the man advantage with 3:09 left in regulation — would have given the Lightning a winning road trip (it was 1-1-1) and its seventh win on the road.

"Last year we were a terrific power-play team," Boucher said. "We have almost the same players on it, but we're acting differently."

The poor power play might not have mattered had the Lightning cashed in on more opportunities early against Colorado. Tampa Bay came out inspired and carried the play for the first 20 minutes. Pavel Kubina's goal with 1:51 left in the period gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead, but that was its only goal despite outshooting Colorado 14-5.

The Avalanche regrouped at intermission and got the equalizer midway through the second.

"We didn't stick to the game plan. It's as easy as that," center Steven Stamkos said.

The trip wasn't fruitless. A win in Columbus on Dec. 17 and the overtime loss (sandwiching a 7-2 loss to the Sharks) meant Tampa Bay picked up half the possible points on the trip.

"It's a .500 road trip for us." Boucher said. "Three out of six points, it's not all that you want, but it's a step in the right direction."

The Lightning is eight points out of the last postseason slot, but with more home games on the schedule, it could make a push.

After a three-game trip in early January, Tampa Bay plays nine of 12 at home. It also will try to get healthy. Forward Nate Thompson (lower body) skated Friday morning and could return against Philadelphia on Tuesday, but forward Ryan Shannon could miss two to four weeks with a lower-body injury.

"You can always gain momentum (at home). The problem is we have injuries," Boucher said. "We need our guys back and to be able to sustain the type of intensity and consistency you need to get momentum."

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Lightning vs. Flyers, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Tampa Bay Lightning eager for more home games after struggles on the road 12/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 24, 2011 9:47pm]
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