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Tampa Bay Lightning veteran Marty St. Louis a key mentor for rookie Steven Stamkos

Steven Stamkos, left, and Marty St. Louis hug it out after St. Louis scores in overtime to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 last week. Stamkos had an assist on the goal. “I want to be inside Stammer’s head, and I want him to be inside mine,” St. Louis says of how he works with the touted rookie on his game.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos, left, and Marty St. Louis hug it out after St. Louis scores in overtime to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 last week. Stamkos had an assist on the goal. “I want to be inside Stammer’s head, and I want him to be inside mine,” St. Louis says of how he works with the touted rookie on his game.

The pass to hard-skating Steven Stamkos was so well timed and in such a perfect place, the Lightning's rookie center snapped a shot without breaking stride.

Stamkos did not score on the blazer during Friday's loss to the Capitals, but it was a moment that showed two players on the same page.

"When we hit each other on plays like that," said right wing Marty St. Louis, who made the nearly no-look push pass, "even if we don't score, it's rewarding."

And validation of a process in which St. Louis is mentoring one of the league's top young stars and Stamkos is the willing sidekick.

Coach Rick Tocchet said the pairing is "not etched in stone." Their line, which also includes left wing Ryan Malone, might even be broken up for tonight's game with the Senators at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Who knows, given Tocchet's willingness to move people around.

But regardless of with whom they play, the chord between St. Louis, 33, and Stamkos, 19, won't be cut.

"There's a rapport there, and it's not just on the ice," Tocchet said. "Marty is a student of the game. I watch him on the bench with Stammer after plays; 'Hey, listen, look for this or that.'

"I love to see that chemistry between them."

Chemistry among players is an unpredictable thing, but St. Louis and Stamkos have key ingredients that have given their partnership a chance.

Stamkos has the foot speed to keep up with St. Louis, and he is a sponge when learning about the game, whether in video work with coaches or private moments with veterans, especially St. Louis, who was a sounding board when Stamkos was struggling.

Their conversations continue.

"We talk about every step that happens out there," St. Louis said. "I like to know the players I play with, how they think, so when we get into situations, I know their thought process and I can make better decisions on what to do. I want to be inside Stammer's head, and I want him to be inside mine."

St. Louis, tied for the team lead with 29 goals and tops with 77 points, said he is "demanding" about intensity from linemates. In that sense, Stamkos said, St. Louis pulls him along.

"His work ethic is second to none, and it rubs off on you, especially when you realize how hard you have to battle just to keep up with Marty," said Stamkos, whose 19 goals are two off Brad Richards' team rookie mark. "It seems like he's going every night."

Since put together with Malone after the March 4 trade deadline, St. Louis has seven goals and 15 points in 11 games. Stamkos has six and 12.

Even captain Vinny Lecavalier, who lost St. Louis from his line, said the pairing is exciting to see.

Stamkos, last summer's No. 1 draft choice, said he was intimidated at first to play with someone he idolized. St. Louis said he is impressed that Stamkos "doesn't have that arrogance about him, yet there is arrogance in his play."

"Hopefully," Stamkos said, "I can play with him as long as I can throughout my career."

Pregame ceremony: Lightning players will walk a red carpet into the St. Pete Times Forum before tonight's game; 3-4 p.m. on the Chrysler Jeep Plaza. Also, defensemen Paul Ranger and Andrej Meszaros will sign autographs during the first intermission in the area.

Tampa Bay Lightning veteran Marty St. Louis a key mentor for rookie Steven Stamkos 03/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 28, 2009 11:18pm]

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