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Tampa Bay Lightning pays for poor game

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Zenon Konopka walked from the rink to the locker room at the Ice Haus, a little stiff-legged and with sweat pouring off his face.

"Just another day in paradise," the Lightning center said.

Actually, Tampa Bay players spent about 40 minutes Sunday in hockey purgatory as coach Rick Tocchet skated them almost nonstop and almost exclusively without pucks to atone for, and cleanse themselves of, Saturday's 7-1 loss to Buffalo, which almost certainly, if not mathematically, ended their slim playoff hopes.

"The message I got was if we're not going to work hard in a game, there are going to be repercussions," Konopka said. "In my mind, that's the right thing to do."

Even with seven games left?

"Absolutely," he said. "It's unacceptable for us not to make the playoffs. We can't just shrug things off and say we gave it the old college try. We have to learn from our mistakes.

"If you have a child who touches something really hot and maybe doesn't burn himself, you still tell the child it's not what you're supposed to do. If you don't, then you have a problem child."

So after 90 minutes watching, in gruesome detail, a replay of the first two periods of the nightmare in Buffalo that dropped Tampa Bay to 12th in the East, eight points out of the playoffs with four teams to jump, the players hit the ice and …

• Skated end to end in groups of three, with one puck for each group, for seven minutes.

• Skated high-speed laps in groups of four or five and in intervals for 12 minutes.

• Had a water break.

• Skated suicide sprints in groups or individually in intervals for nine minutes.

• Skated rink-length two-by-two sprints for five minutes.

• Had a two-minute cooldown and stretched for two minutes.

• Did 10 sets of pushups, each one less than the previous — from 10 to one — and held the final pushup for 10 seconds.

"It feels like an hour," right wing Teddy Purcell said. "It's like at the end of the day when you're tired, you have to mentally get through it. It's not easy, and that's the thing that carries over into games."

"You're looking for character players," Tocchet said. "You're looking for players who have pride. You're looking for guys who are quitting. The Buffalo game was alarming to me that some players were disinterested and not ready."

Tocchet did not let himself off the hook.

"It's on me to have these guys ready," he said. "I thought I did for the Buffalo game, but a good chunk weren't."

And they paid.

"After a loss like that, it's a good wake-up call," Purcell said. "We deserved what we got."

Still, Konopka said, "It could be worse. We could be working for a living."

NOTES: Defenseman Matt Smaby left the ice with back spasms … Excused from the skate were defensemen Mattias Ohlund (ankle), David Hale (ankle), Kurtis Foster (head) and Matt Walker (body maintenance) and forward Steve Downie (knee).

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

Tampa Bay Lightning pays for poor game 03/28/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 28, 2010 10:32pm]

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