BRANDON — It was a drill conceived so players could have fun, but to Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson, it was deadly serious.
Sliding to his right, then his left, throwing his legs out, making saves with his stick, Roloson put on a show Wednesday at the Ice Sports Forum against teammates shooting from no more than 15 feet away.
"Any little thing is important," Roloson said. "You have to practice like you're in a game. The old cliche is, you do something 1,000 times, you're good at it. You do it 10,000 times, you're an expert."
Tampa Bay (9-9-2) could use some expertise from Roloson.
In fairness, when a team loses four of five games, more is going wrong than just inconsistency in net, and the Lightning sure could use a sturdier defense.
But Roloson, Tampa Bay's No. 1, is supposed to bail out teammates when they make mistakes. That hasn't happened lately. And in Tampa Bay's past two losses — 4-2 to the Devils and 7-1 to the Maple Leafs — Roloson not only was leaky, but puck blunders allowed goals that never should have happened.
It's enough that coach Guy Boucher will give backup Mathieu Garon the start Friday at Florida and would not commit to Roloson on Saturday against the Panthers at the St. Pete Times Forum despite it being the second of back-to-back games.
"Right now he's got a lot of games in a row, and he's going to get a break," Boucher said. "He's had a breather and practices before where he's had success, and all of a sudden he clears his mind and he's back on track. This is a great opportunity for him to master his game."
Roloson's numbers are not good. His 3.46 goals-against average entered Wednesday tied for 59th in the league. His .887 save percentage was 57th.
In his past four games, Roloson is 1-3-0 with a 4.64 goals-against average and an .851 save percentage. Garon, 33, hasn't been sharp, either, going 0-2-0 in his past five games with a 5.23 goals-against average and an .827 save percentage.
But it is Roloson, 42, the league's oldest player, who is supposed to be Tampa Bay's go-to guy, and he was that Thursday when he made 33 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Penguins.
What Roloson is not supposed to do is sweep the puck directly to Toronto's Tyler Bozak for an empty-net goal or try to fling the puck with his glove backhand to a teammate, only to see it go to New Jersey's Ryan Carter, who also scored into an empty net.
That kind of inconsistency has plagued the entire team. It is just much more glaring when it afflicts a goalie.
"Just trying to do too much," Roloson said of the miscues. "You're trying to do something that's not really your forte. When you try to do too much, it usually comes back to bite you."
How does he regroup?
"Don't worry about anything else except the things you can control," Roloson said.
Such as Wednesday's practice, during which teammates shook their heads as the goalie made save after save.
"He was outstanding," Boucher said.
"Anyone who knows 'Roli' knows he is never not focused," center Dominic Moore said. "Even playing a fun game, he's playing for keeps."
The Lightning just needs to see it more when it counts.
MOVES: Forward Blair Jones, a healthy scratch in 10 of 20 games, is on waivers for the purpose of sending him to AHL Norfolk. Wing Dana Tyrell was called up.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.