BRANDON — With three straight victories, and four in five games, things are looking up for the Lightning. To find the power play, though, you have to look down.
Tampa Bay entered Monday tied with Florida for last in the league at 11.4 percent (5-for-44).
"We have to keep working on it and keep practicing it," coach Barry Melrose said at the Ice Sports Forum. "The good news is we're winning without it. If it ever starts cooking, it'll be good news for us."
It is difficult to pinpoint the problem. Both power-play units move the puck fairly well and generate opportunities to shoot, though shots aren't always getting to the net.
Take Saturday's 1:46 five-on-three against the Senators in which Melrose counted "five quality chances." Only one shot, officially, was counted as on goal.
Installing RW Marty St. Louis as the quarterback has helped boost puck movement and generate chances. Putting rookie C Steven Stamkos on the first unit, part of a four-forward strategy, has provided flair and a presence in front of the net.
But Melrose said he wants St. Louis to be "selfish" and use his big shot more from the point. He also wants Vinny Lecavalier to pass a bit more, perhaps down low to Vinny Prospal, or carry the puck to the net instead of relying on the one-timer.
Not that the one-timer is a bad play, Melrose said, "But not every time. It's not there every time. For every time I've seen it work, it's been intercepted or blocked or missed the net. It's definitely part of the weaponry, but we'd like to have other things.
"If Vinny takes it to the net, the defensive guys will come down and that will open up St. Louis or (Paul) Ranger on the back door. We just have to have more variety on the power play."
IT'S NOT ENOUGH: That is what St. Louis said about his one goal and 21 shots in 10 games.
"I'm a shooter," St. Louis said. "I'm trying to get myself into position where I can shoot the puck more. Sometimes it's hard."
It was hard against Ottawa, as he had no shots. More to his liking was Thursday's four-shot, three-post effort against the Sabres.
"I'd like to get that kind of game more often than one out of every 10," he said. "I need to get those games every two or three games."
Considering St. Louis averaged one shot through five games and is now up to 2.1, he grudgingly conceded, "It's an improvement. But I still need to improve. Two shots a game is not enough for me, like one goal after 10 games is not enough."
QUICK DRAW: C Chris Gratton entered Monday third in the league with a 63.6 winning percentage on faceoffs. He credits a stiffer stick shaft that lets him lean harder on the blade and into an opponent.
"A bigger guy, using a stiffer shaft, you can attack the opponent with more power," he said.
MASK AUCTIONS: Bids can be made on G Mike Smith's Saw V mask until 11:30 tonight, after which Olaf Kolzig's mask will be available. See collectsaw.com, click on auctions and go to the masks (bidding reached $3,150 by Monday night). Proceeds from Smith's mask go to the Lightning Foundation, from Kolzig's to Athletes Against Autism.
ODDS AND ENDS: Melrose said RW Radim Vrbata (groin) is about "95 percent." … F Ryan Craig on Saturday's game, his first, because of injuries, since Nov. 10: "It's good to feel part of the team. When you're injured, even if you're here, you don't feel part of the team." … Devils G Martin Brodeur (elbow) might not play Wednesday against Tampa Bay.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]