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Tampa Bay Lightning star Marty St. Louis adjusting to cage mask

TAMPA — Lightning RW Marty St. Louis acknowledges it's still an adjustment wearing a protective cage over his face during games, something he'll have to do for about a month.

But St. Louis, 35, said Tuesday he plans to always wear a visor even after he takes the cage off, having learned his lesson getting hit in the face with an errant puck Dec. 8. That forced him to miss five games, snapping his consecutive games streak at 499.

St. Louis had never used a protective shield for his face in his 13 NHL seasons, though most players do.

"I've been told all the time to wear a visor, and until something bad happens, it really wakes you up," he said. "Sometimes you're a prisoner of your own habits, and I've never wore one so it became my worst enemy in that regard, almost convincing yourself that you can't wear one. When something bad happens, it just kind of activates the process of putting one on."

St. Louis, who has points in all three games since his return, said he isn't feeling pain and his conditioning is back where he wants it to be. But the protective cage has impacted his play.

"I don't know if it's the cage or that I haven't played in two weeks, the poise with the puck the confidence, the patience," he said. "It just feels like I lose a lot of pucks in my skate because of the chin, it feels like there's always people on you when there isn't. I just got to get used to it."

STEPPING IN: The Flyers drew boos at the St. Pete Times Forum for trying the stall tactic they implemented in their last trip here — holding the puck in their zone for several seconds — though they only did it a couple times in the first period.

Coach Peter Laviolette had reiterated that attention the strategy had received earlier this season wouldn't impact his plans.

"I don't think it's a controversy," Laviolette said. "It's just a style choice."

MEDICAL MATTERS: D Matt Gilroy (lower body) missed his fourth consecutive game and C Nate Thompson (lower body) was scratched for the third straight. Gilroy, who skated with the team the past two days, was a game-time decision. Thompson could return Thursday against the Canadiens.

HIGH PRAISE: Recently called-up RW James Wyman impressed in the 6:01 he played Friday, his Lightning debut.

Boucher is familiar with Wyman, having coached him in AHL Hamilton in 2009-2010.

"I would honestly say that I think it's the best game by a call-up in a year and half," Boucher said. "He played very, very good, very smart, very physical. He's a big guy that skates and he's like a clock. You ask him something, you get exactly that. I had him in the American League, if you say (you want) a 30-second shift, you look at your stopwatch, 30 seconds."

STAR SHINING: Despite leading the league in goals after his two on Tuesday, C Steven Stamkos is not among the top 30 forwards in fan voting for the All-Star Game, with one week left. Polls close Jan. 4. Fans can vote 30 times each on three platforms (nhl.com/vote, a web-enabled mobile device and via SMS text).

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning star Marty St. Louis adjusting to cage mask 12/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 11:54pm]
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