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Tampa Bay Lightning needs more balanced scoring to build on early success

Steven Stamkos, celebrating his second goal against the Devils last week, has combined with linemates Marty St. Louis and Ryan Malone for 11 of the Lightning’s 15 goals. Vinny Lecavalier, background, is goalless.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos, celebrating his second goal against the Devils last week, has combined with linemates Marty St. Louis and Ryan Malone for 11 of the Lightning’s 15 goals. Vinny Lecavalier, background, is goalless.

OTTAWA — First, the good news:

The Lightning enters tonight's game with the Senators at Scotiabank Place tops in the Southeast Division.

Now, the bad news, or at least something to keep an eye on:

Of Tampa Bay's 15 goals, 11 are by center Steven Stamkos and wings Marty St. Louis and Ryan Malone, a line that has turned into Tampa Bay's No. 1.

Okay, so five of their goals have come on the power play. Still, the lack of production from other lines — most notably center Vinny Lecavalier and wings Alex Tanguay and Stephane Veilleux, who have zero goals among them through five games — must change if the team is to sustain its early season success.

"As the season goes on, it will be harder and harder," coach Rick Tocchet said of piggybacking on one hot line. "Everybody knows we're going to need production from those other lines."

All lines are not created equal in this discussion.

The line of center Jeff Halpern and wings Drew Miller and James Wright doesn't even have a point, but it is not supposed to be an offensive force, though chipping in an occasional goal given how well it plays territorially wouldn't hurt.

And center Zenon Konopka and wings Todd Fedoruk and Steve Downie are more disrupters. But goals by Fedoruk and Downie only magnify the dearth of goals elsewhere, especially from Lecavalier and Tanguay, who were paired to provide an offensive spark.

"We're a better line than this," Tanguay said. "We want to contribute more. … At some point it has to get going. We have too much talent on the line."

"Of course it's frustrating. It's getting very frustrating," Lecavalier said, though he added, "All the positives signs are there" to indicate his line is ready to prosper. "It just gets us more hungry to get that first one to get going."

Lecavalier, without a goal in 12 straight games going back to last season, entered Wednesday tied for fourth in the league with 24 shots. Tanguay, "itchy" to score, has just five shots, but Tocchet said he has had "about four or five point-blank chances.

"So, it's just a matter of one or two of those going in," Tocchet said. "As long as they're getting their chances."

Stamkos' line not only gets chances, it converts.

Malone's five goals (on 17 shots) was tied for second in the league. Stamkos and St. Louis have three goals each.

"When you have success, you do the little things," Tocchet said. "Ryan, he's been around the net. Marty uses his speed, and he goes north-south. Stamkos is one of those guys, he's looking for his shots. He's hungry.

"So, I try to tell the other forwards, if you want more goals, go to the net, stay hungry around the slot area and go north-south. Those are the things we preach."

And that's exactly what Lecavalier and Tanguay tell themselves.

"You try to be as consistent as possible," Lecavalier said. "You never know, you get one, and then it's six or seven games in a row."

"We know Vinny and Tangs are going to get going," Stamkos said. "It's not like they're playing bad. They're getting tons of chances and playing well."

Consider that the good news.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning needs more balanced scoring to build on early success 10/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2009 6:18am]
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