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Tampa Bay Lightning rookie forward James Wright scratched for first time

TAMPA — Is James Wright about to embark on a hockey IQ program similar to the one Steven Stamkos went through last season?

Wright, 19, was scratched for the first time Wednesday, and Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said the rookie forward needs a little on-ice "teaching time."

The issue is working smarter rather than harder.

"I have to stay more with my ice and slow down and just (be) patient," Wright said, "not always go, go, go." In other words, he is overpursuing the puck, which takes him out of position and expends unnecessary energy.

Add the grind of an NHL schedule compared with juniors, in which games are generally on weekends, and it is understandable how Wright's game has, as Tocchet said, "flattened out."

Wright is averaging 12:31 of ice time but hadn't played as much in three previous games. He has zero points in 13 games and is minus-8 in his previous 12.

"He's actually working so hard right now, he needs to take a step back," Tocchet said. "He'll be fine. He's going to be a good player."

"It's the coach's decision, and I respect that," Wright said. "I just have to be supportive of my teammates, and I know I can take from this that I can play better."

INJURIES: Forwards Jeff Halpern and Todd Fedoruk left in the first period with lower-body injuries and did not return. No information was available.

PLAYMAKER: RW Marty St. Louis entered Wednesday tied for second in the league with 33 assists. More impressive: 23 were primary that led directly to goals.

"He's always around the puck," Tocchet said. "For his size (5 feet 7), which is amazing to me, he comes up with loose pucks. We harp on the bigger guys, 'You have to come up with loose pucks,' but he somehow jumps on the puck and causes mismatches when he has it.

"If he's got ice in the corners and they don't gap up on him, it's hard to defend him in today's rules. You can't play man-on-man with him because there's too much ice to cover. That's why he gets his first assists. He can separate himself from the defense."

On the other hand, St. Louis, with seven goals, is on pace for 16, which would be his lowest output since his 16 in 2001-02.

"He's just been a little snakebitten," Tocchet said. "I bet you he's had 12 or 13 breakaways, and I don't know if he scored on any of them. He's getting those chances. If he gets hot, look out."

FINALLY: C Zenon Konopka's goal was his first in 62 games, back to Dec. 14, 2005, when he scored against Tampa Bay for the Ducks.

A REAL STINKER: The Flyers canceled Tuesday's practice at the St. Pete Times Forum because of a sewage backup that affected the visiting locker rooms. Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett said the carpeting has been replaced and everything smells "wonderful."

ODDS AND ENDS: D Matt Walker (lower body) sat for a second straight game. Tocchet said he could be out another week. … D Mattias Ohlund played his 800th game.

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

Tampa Bay Lightning rookie forward James Wright scratched for first time 12/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 24, 2009 12:24am]
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