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Tampa Bay Lightning wing Steve Downie gives and gets praise

TAMPA — Lightning RW Steve Downie simply glanced to his right to explain his play of late. There were his linemates, C Steven Stamkos and LW Marty St. Louis. "Two really good players," Downie said after Saturday morning's practice.

Yeah, but so, too, is Downie, who extended his career-best scoring streak to 10 games with an assist on St. Louis' first-period goal Saturday against Atlanta. He entered the game with five goals and seven assists in his previous nine games.

"Obviously having Marty and Stammer helps," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said, "but (Downie has) got to give himself credit. He's doing the stuff."

Tocchet said Downie, 22, has taken his game to another level in his second season in Tampa Bay for one simple reason: He's a tireless worker, getting on the ice 20 minutes before practice shooting and passing. "He's applied himself," Tocchet said.

"It's not a surprise to me; maybe to people who didn't know him," Stamkos said. "He's gotten a shot here, and he's taking advantage of the opportunity."

Downie spent last summer working out with Lightning strength and conditioning coach Chuck Lobe, and he may join Stamkos in the offseason and train with former Lightning player Gary Roberts, a renowned workout fanatic. Stamkos spent nearly seven days a week at Roberts' home in the Toronto area last summer and said he felt much stronger and in far better shape this season as a result.

Lineup changes: The Lightning recalled C Paul Szczechura from AHL Norfolk on Saturday, and he was in the lineup. He had played in 37 games for Tampa Bay (two goals, one assist). Also in the lineup was RW Brandon Bochenski, recalled from Norfolk on Tuesday but who didn't play against Philadelphia that night or at Washington on Thursday. The two teamed up on the third Lightning goal Saturday. Szczechura fed Bochenski, then crossed for the return pass, which he carried into the zone. He then blasted a long shot from the right side for his third score of the year.

Injury updates: D Andrej Meszaros, who took a shot to his left foot Thursday that left a large welt, said before the game he was okay to play.

"I can't really walk, but I can skate, so it's a good thing," he said, laughing. He was in the starting lineup.

Fellow D Matt Walker, out the previous two games with a lower-back injury, returned Saturday. His wife pointed out that he hadn't played since Feb. 14 because of the Olympic break and then his injury. "It was probably better I didn't know it was that long," he joked.

Odds and ends: Former Penguins star Mario Lemieux, one of the NHL's greatest players, was at the game and was quite impressed by Stamkos, who now has 40 goals. Tocchet said his one-time teammate told him: "Wow. This kid's a player." … New owner Jeff Vinik, at his first game since he closed the deal to buy the team, received a nice ovation midway through the opening period. … C Zenon Konopka (lower-body injury), LW Todd Fedoruk, who has seen limited time in recent games, and D Matt Smaby, who was benched after playing 7:32 Thursday, were scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning wing Steve Downie gives and gets praise 03/06/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 7, 2010 12:11am]

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