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Tampa Bay Lightning's focus shifts to playoff details

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It would have been easy for the Lightning brass to call the season a success.

With its first playoff berth since 2007, the team has wiped away the doldrums and dysfunction of the previous three years.

But instead of celebrating after Thursday's playoff-clinching win over the Penguins, GM Steve Yzerman spoke about perhaps gaining home-ice advantage for what seems will be a first-round playoff matchup with the Penguins, and coach Guy Boucher wants fewer penalties and turnovers.

"We're the leaders, and the minute we show we're satisfied about something, we'll get the result of people who are satisfied," Boucher said Saturday.

"We recognize how important it is," he said of the playoffs, "but at the same time, we recognize the possibility of doing some good things now, not next year. We want to make sure we're showing the way. We're asking our players to be relentless. We have to be relentless."

"As much as you feel good about making the playoffs," Yzerman said, "I can't say anyone is gratified by it because the season isn't over.

"I don't want to just be in it. I want us to have a good first round. It's momentum. A team in the playoffs gives fans hope."

The message seemed to trickle down. The locker room Thursday was as businesslike as Yzerman and Boucher.

"We said congratulations," Boucher said of his postgame conversation with Yzerman, "and then we went right away about what we need to improve."

SMITH IN NET: Tonight against the Blackhawks, G Mike Smith makes his fourth start since his late-February return from the minors, and he said he has come to grips with a diminished workload.

"Practice is important," Smith said. "You have to be sharp, not take days off. It's time to work when you get here in the morning."

Smith is 1-1-1 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .911 save percentage since returning from AHL Norfolk. He is 11-6-1 with a 3.10 goals-against average and .888 save percentage overall.

DOWNIE's dilemma: RW Steve Downie is making progress controlling his on-ice emotions, Boucher said. But he sometimes still gets the short end.

Take Thursday's game with the Penguins. Downie was cross-checked by D Brooks Orpik, who was penalized. Downie skated away but got an inexplicable two minutes for slashing.

"The kid is trying so hard to change, and when he is changing, he gets no reward," Boucher said. "You need the reward. Otherwise, what's the use?"

Hurtin': AHL Norfolk G Cedrick Desjardins (shoulder) is likely done for the season but should not need surgery, Yzerman reiterated. … Junior prospect Brett Connolly, 2010's first-round draft pick, will be out four to eight weeks with a Grade II separated shoulder.

ODDS AND ENDS: D Eric Brewer's assist on Downie's second-period goal Saturday against the Wild in the 3-1 win was his first with Tampa Bay. … D Randy Jones, out 12 games with a high ankle sprain, could skate this week. … W Ryan Malone, who has played two games since returning from a groin injury, will sit out tonight at Chicago as a precaution, Boucher said. … Defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron and Matt Smaby also were scratched Saturday.

Tampa Bay Lightning's focus shifts to playoff details 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 9:18pm]
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