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Tampa Bay Lightning has rough practice after day of rest

EDMONTON — When six bodies are in close corners and the drill is about battling for the puck, team hierarchy goes out the window.

So it was for the Lightning during Thursday's practice at Rexall Place as Steven Stamkos took a solid elbow in the side of the head from defenseman Randy Jones, who knocked the star center's stick out of his hands and purposefully pushed it away.

"It's what it's part of," Jones said later. "You're not out there hurting each other or to injure guys, but you're going to be battling for the puck because that's what it takes in a game."

In other words, playtime for the Lightning was over after spending Wednesday in the mountain town of Banff, where hockey, for the most part, was the last thing on the players' minds.

There were trips to the hotel spa and the outdoor hot springs, a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain to take in the snow-shrouded view from about 7,500 feet and a team dinner as the stench of Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Flames washed away.

"I had never been to a place like that," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We have ski resorts (in his native Sweden) but nothing compared to that. It was beautiful."

As for Guy Boucher, the team could have been in Death Valley. The coach said he considered staying in Calgary while his players bused 65 miles west because he planned to hunker down in his hotel room anyway, without distractions, deconstructing video and planning his reaction to the poorly played game.

"So besides one hour to see what the spa looks like, the rest of the time I went to eat, had a talk with my assistants and stayed in my room," Boucher said.

He did look outside at "a few mountains" but looked harder at the video of the Calgary game.

"Their minds weren't there," Boucher said of his players. "Their legs weren't there. They needed to be reminded of a few things, and work ethic was one of them. Battle was the other, and structure. We didn't have any of those in that game."

But the reprimand could wait. The day off was planned. It was not a time to be a Grinch, though Tampa Bay is 2-3-1 in its past six while being outscored 30-16.

"Besides," Boucher said, "I don't think it would have done any good to speak to them (Wednesday). I'm much smarter in my comments (Thursday)."

A severe practice did more of the talking as a net was set up at the bottom of a faceoff circle facing a corner. A puck was thrown out and, three-on-three, players tried to score on the goalies.

How rough was it out there? An observer associated with the Oilers, whom the Lightning faces tonight, said, "You never see that during the season."

"Just getting back to basics, to what we do well," left wing Simon Gagne said. "Tough skating, a tough practice; it's something sometimes you need to bring back your work ethic."

"It showed how soft we were and how undisciplined we were about sticking to the game plan and just battling and doing the things you need to do in games," Jones said. "It's proven what you do in practice and the work ethic you have in practice leads over to games. That was the message we tried to get across."

The elbow to Stamkos' head was just part of the process.

NOTES: Left wing Mattias Ritola was held out of practice because his Meniere's disease, which causes dizziness and ringing in his right ear, acted up. … The Lightning acquired center Levi Nelson from the Bruins for minor-league left wing Juraj Simek. Nelson, 22, assigned to AHL Norfolk, had four goals and seven points with 19 penalty minutes in 14 games with AHL Providence.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at

Tampa Bay Lightning has rough practice after day of rest 12/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 9, 2010 11:08pm]
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