BRANDON — How much nicer it is for the Lightning when everyone shows up for work.
A few players took the day off Monday for either body maintenance or because of injuries, but those who practiced at the Ice Sports Forum toiled to coach Guy Boucher's satisfaction.
"Well," Boucher said, "I didn't have to lose it."
Boucher was close after Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Devils in which he said only four players — Marty St. Louis, Steve Downie, Ryan Shannon and Brett Connolly — showed up.
Monday, though, Boucher was full of positive energy, and during practice praised the players for meeting "our standard."
Even so, Boucher's postgame shot at his players still resonated.
"Anytime anybody questions your work ethic you have to make sure it doesn't happen again," left wing Ryan Malone said. "It's obviously something that needs to be addressed and taken care of."
"He had every right to say it," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "We have to be more consistent in everything. It's something we definitely have to work on."
Perhaps most troubling was that the slow starts plaguing the team on the road crept into a home game as the Lightning fell behind 3-0 after two periods.
Then there was the 0-for-6 power play that squandered a 1:21 five-on-three. And Lecavalier said the team did not do enough to challenge New Jersey's defense and wear it down.
At least Boucher's review of game video showed Tampa Bay played well defensively five-on-five. But that does not answer the question of whether the Lightning, when it plays as it did, lacks effort or just doesn't execute.
Perhaps it is a bit of both. Consider this from St. Louis: "We're aware we didn't play hard enough long enough (against the Devils). The bottom line is the power play has to get us a goal and it didn't. I'm not going to say we didn't work hard. We didn't execute at key times."
Funny, Boucher said, how these problems don't exist as much against teams like the Blackhawks, Flyers and Penguins, each of whom the Lightning beat.
"Let's not kid ourselves," he said, "when our guys play these high-end teams we seem to be all jacked up for these games. When we play normal teams we don't have the same urgency at all. That's our big problem this year.
"Jersey is a good team, but right now it doesn't have the same impact that the other teams have, and we don't have the same urgency."
There should be plenty of urgency tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum against the Maple Leafs, who entered Monday tied for first in the Northeast — though given what happened Saturday and that the Lightning (9-8-2) has lost three of four, the opponent really shouldn't matter.
"We want to raise the bar and be better," right wing Teddy Purcell said. "We expect better of ourselves."
"It shouldn't have to be brought up every couple of weeks," Malone said. "Guys have to take it as their own responsibility that they're ready to battle and compete every night."
In other words, show up for work.
NOTES: Left wing Tom Pyatt (upper body) is expected to play. … Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron left practice and is questionable because of a lower-body injury sustained against the Devils, Boucher said.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.