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Tampa Bay Lightning simply has to 'play better,' GM Steve Yzerman says

BRANDON — When it comes to the Lightning's season-opening slump, there are as many theories about why the team is losing as about how it has found ways to lose.

Players have been undisciplined, center Steven Stamkos said, noting that nine times shorthanded Monday turned into five power-play goals for the Panthers in Tampa Bay's 7-4 loss.

"We're thinking too much," center Vinny Lecavalier said, "taking that extra second instead of doing it right away."

"We're working hard," forward Nate Thompson said, "but not working smart."

They could have added how poorly the defense is playing and how goalie Dwayne Roloson has the league's worst goals-against average at 5.09 and allowed 17 goals in his past three games.

For general manager Steve Yzerman, though, the particulars of his team's 1-3-2 start and five-game losing streak — its longest since a five-gamer in March 2010 — did not seem to matter.

"Quite simply," he said, "we have to play better."

And that brings us back to the daunting list with which we started, and which is being attacked by the coaching staff practically and philosophically.

The practical was on display during Wednesday's practice at the Ice Sports Forum.

There were puck-battle drills and breakout drills done at high speed, all of which was to remind players to, as Lecavalier said, "play relentless for 60 minutes."

There were 40 on-ice pushups for the entire team if one player made a mistake, such as doing something that would have earned a penalty in a game. In that way, coaches hoped to instill more disciplined play.

As for the philosophical, "frustration can't be in the minds with either the players or the staff," coach Guy Boucher said. "That's our job, to get better, and it's our job to take it one step at a time and make sure we get it."

"It's not about crushing ourselves and being disappointed and negative," he added. "That's the legacy of pessimistic people who sit and wait for good things to happen. If the glass is half empty, it's because we choose to see it half empty. We see it half full. When things are difficult, it's adversity, and adversity is the building blocks of success."

Yzerman said there is much on which to build.

"The urgency in the guys' play is there," he said. "I like the effort of our team in every game. All teams go through stretches in a season where they struggle. Ours is just right off the bat."

Will Tampa Bay's struggles end tonight against the Islanders at the St. Pete Times Forum?

Mathieu Garon will be in goal to give Roloson a chance to regroup. And perhaps the intense practice will help reduce what Boucher called the hesitation he sees in his players, partly fueled by still-developing on-ice chemistry and that Tampa Bay has been shorthanded a league-worst 36 times.

"That's why penalties kill you," Boucher said. "We have momentum and (get a) penalty."

"Right now one thing or another is not working right in every game," Thompson said. "If we clean up every area collectively and stay disciplined, I like our chances."

Not a bad theory.

.tonight

Lightning vs. Islanders

When/where: 7:30; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: Tampa Bay's Marc-Andre Bergeron co-leads all defensemen and is tied for third in the league with eight points on two goals and six assists. … Islanders C John Tavares is third in the league with five goals and tied for third with eight points. … Lightning G Mathieu Garon is 3-0-1 in five games against New York with a 1.61 goals-against average, a .943 save percentage and a shutout.

Tampa Bay Lightning simply has to 'play better,' GM Steve Yzerman says 10/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 10:34pm]
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