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Tampa Bay Lightning's Brett Clark looks to balance emotions on Canada road trip

Defenseman Brett Clark, a key offseason acquisition, says “emotions can cause you to get overexcited, overanxious and you make those little mistakes.”

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Defenseman Brett Clark, a key offseason acquisition, says “emotions can cause you to get overexcited, overanxious and you make those little mistakes.”

CALGARY — One would think the Lightning's road trip this week to western Canada would have some emotional appeal for Brett Clark.

The Lightning defenseman grew up in Wapella, Saskatchewan, and every summer returns to Regina, where one of his favorite hangouts is his uncle Dave Dunn's Barley Mill pub.

There will even be the chance Saturday to face the Canucks, for whom Dunn played in 1973-74 and Clark rooted.

Clark, though, is low key about the three-game trip that begins tonight against the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome then goes to Edmonton and Vancouver.

"It means a lot, but you have to get your emotions out of the way," he said. "Sometimes your emotions can cause you to get overexcited, overanxious and you make those little mistakes."

But a burst of emotional adrenaline can boost one's game, and that is the formula Clark still is trying to get right.

As focused and intense as Clark can be in big games, coach Guy Boucher said, "if it's one of those moments when there's no pressure and no emotion in the game, he has a tendency to be a little too relaxed. We want to make sure he keeps his emotional level to where it is in the big moments."

It is a kind of quibble, really, as Clark, 33, who has flown mostly under the radar, has been one of Tampa Bay's best offseason acquisitions.

He leads Tampa Bay's defensemen with five goals and is tied for the lead with 11 points, thanks mostly to his spot on the No. 1 power play on which he has four goals and eight points.

He leads with 57 blocked shots and averages 20:23 of ice time.

Boucher calls Clark, signed to a two-year, $3 million deal, "probably our most poised defenseman in traffic. Sometimes he gets out of it, and you would never think he would."

Added defensive partner Victor Hedman: "He's very patient. He doesn't force things. He's just relaxed and makes really good plays. It's been really good to play with him. I'm learning a lot."

Still, Boucher reiterated Clark's intensity needs consistency. In fact, Boucher said, "He's not a very emotional guy.

"Like I say, everybody's biggest quality is eventually their biggest flaw. He's relaxed and poised, it's good, and I love his game in pressure moments. But it's important his strength stay his strength in all circumstances."

"He says my body can be relaxed," Clark said, "but I have to get my mind more focused."

He is a consistent shot blocker, though. Tied for 14th among NHL defensemen, he is on track for 173. He might have more if not for Lightning forwards, who have bought into the shot-blocking mentality, stopping pucks before they reach the defense.

"It's about being willing to pay the price and being able to read where the guy is going to go," said Clark, whose 238 blocks for the Avalanche in 2008-09 were second in the league. "You're just getting in the way so the puck doesn't get towards our net."

As for traveling toward home, Clark said he is not expecting a big reunion with family and friends: "They're planning a big trip (to Tampa) in February."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

.Tonight

Lightning

at Flames

When: 9:30; Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary

Radio: 620-AM

Key stats: C Steven Stamkos hasn't scored in five games, his longest stretch since March. … The Flames are 3-for-30 on the power play their past eight games. … Tampa Bay has won five straight in Calgary, including Games 4 and 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final. … The Lightning has allowed a league-worst 94 goals and is the only team without a shorthanded goal. … Flames and former Lightning LW Alex Tanguay has two goals and six points in his past six games.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Brett Clark looks to balance emotions on Canada road trip 12/06/10 [Last modified: Monday, December 6, 2010 9:52pm]
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