TAMPA — LW James Wright, whom the Lightning must keep or send back to juniors, has a powerful ally in captain Vinny Lecavalier.
Asked if he will lobby for his linemate, Lecavalier said, "Oh, yeah, he's been playing great. He's smart. He's a quick learner. He listens when you talk."
Told of the comments, Wright seemed humbled.
"I was even just happy to meet the guy," Wright said. "Coming from him, that's a huge compliment."
Wright, 19, deserves it, having earned a job out of camp and a spot on a line with Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis.
He has a goal and two points, is plus-2 and averaging 13:50 of ice time, though he had a career-best 17:05 Saturday against the Sabres.
After nine games, the Lightning must decide his short-term future. If Wright is returned to WHL Vancouver, his three-year contract will start next season.
"I hope I'm staying, but I don't want to be too overconfident," Wright said Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum. "I kind of want to be prepared for the worst. … Going home would be tough on me."
That said, Wright is satisfied he has made a good case to stay.
"I feel good about the way I played," he said. "I left pretty much all of it out there.
"It's in their hands right now. I'm just playing the waiting game."
VINNY'S FIRST: Lecavalier said ending a 15-game goalless streak Saturday was a relief.
"It was nice to get that monkey off your back," he said. "I felt lighter."
And he is picking up his game, even though he missed two close-in opportunities to score without getting a shot.
"But the more you get opportunities, the more you feel comfortable on the ice, the more they'll go in," said Lecavalier, who has been reunited with St. Louis the past two games.
"These last two games, to me, were my best of the year."
RANGER STILL OUT: D Paul Ranger, who missed Saturday's game for personal reasons, did not practice Sunday. "He has to take care of a couple of things," coach Rick Tocchet said.
PRAISE FOR HEDMAN: The giveaway by rookie D Victor Hedman, which led to a goal in the last minute of the second period by Buffalo's Mike Grier, was bad. But Tocchet was impressed with Hedman's reaction.
"He made a mistake, and he doesn't hide," Tocchet said. "I can't say enough about the kid. … He's back out there, and his head is up high. He's the type of player we want here."
"You learn from your mistakes," Hedman said. "Next time, you look up a second earlier, and that play doesn't even happen."
LINE CHANGES: Alex Tanguay practiced with C Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone. Stephane Veilleux was on C Jeff Halpern's line with Drew Miller, and Steve Downie was on C Zenon Konopka's line with Todd Fedoruk.
ODDS AND ENDS: D Andrej Meszaros practiced after taking an inadvertent stick blade in the left eye Saturday. Tocchet said a CT scan was negative, and Meszaros had only a nick at the corner of the eye. … Wright and D Matt Walker did not practice for body maintenance. … Grier's goal was the first allowed even strength when Halpern's line was on the ice.