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Tampa Bay Lightning wing Alex Tanguay reviving his game

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Funny thing about slumps.

Had the nine-game stretch in which Alex Tanguay had just two assists been buried in the middle of a long season, the fuss likely would have been minimal.

But to have it out of the gate, and after the stories appeared of how he was brought in to help jump-start captain Vinny Lecavalier, well, the spotlight was pretty harsh.

And the Lightning left wing felt it.

"I was upset, really upset," he said. "I was anxious to contribute. It was definitely frustrating."

Frustration has turned to hope, and perhaps even anticipation. Tanguay's second nine games produced four goals and 10 points.

Two parts of the season, two different results, and, as Tanguay explained, two different approaches to the game.

"I'm starting to move a little bit more," he said. "I'm starting to feel more confident of where I have to go on the ice and what I have to do to be successful with the guys I'm playing with."

"When he's on his game, other teams will circle his name and say, 'We have to watch this guy,' " coach Rick Tocchet said. "Are we there yet? No. But he has that potential."

What Tanguay has now is a comfort zone. His wife and their 18-month-old daughter are settled into their Tampa lives. The soft-spoken Tanguay, 29, said he also feels more comfortable in the locker room. He is friendlier with his new teammates.

Just driving to the rink is a better experience.

"It just feels more like I'm home," he said.

Said center Steven Stamkos: "He just seems more like himself."

When Tanguay is at his best, he is in constant motion. He is a puck hunter with a knack for getting to it first. Once he has the puck, Tanguay can create.

"He's a player who's going to make those around him better by laying the pass nice and flat so the guys can shoot," left wing Ryan Malone said. "He's winning more one-on-one battles. He's getting the feel of it."

The key, though, is getting off the boards and moving his feet, something Tanguay understood was not happening enough.

Tocchet, who knows Tanguay well from two seasons in which he coached the wing as an assistant with the Avalanche, also showed him video.

"I've been on him," Tocchet said. "Tangs can take it. One thing he has not done is make excuses."

The tipping point might have been a 6-2 loss to the Flyers on Nov. 2 in Philadelphia. During a closed-door meeting after the game, Tanguay said, the players decided to "look in the mirror."

In six games since, Tampa Bay, which tonight faces the Ducks at the Honda Center, is 4-0-2, and Tanguay has three goals and seven points.

Tanguay, with four goals and 12 points on the season, and playing on a line with Stamkos and right wing Marty St. Louis, said he still needs to be "a little more consistent. … I still think I have a few notches I can turn it up."

Let's see how he does in his next nine games.

. Tonight

Lightning at Ducks

When/where: 10; Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif.

Radio: 620-AM, no TV

Key stats: Lightning G Mike Smith is 3-0-0 with a 0.60 goals-against average, a .975 save percentage and a shutout in four games against the Ducks. … RW Corey Perry leads the Ducks with 13 goals and 24 points, and has nine goals and eight assists in a 12-game points streak, the league's longest this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning wing Alex Tanguay reviving his game 11/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 8:55am]
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