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Tampa Bay Lightning's practice drills serve two purposes

TAMPA — The Lightning ran a drill Thursday at the St. Pete Times Forum in which four of five offensive players went to the front of the net.

Players engaged in two-on-two puck battles. And a breakaway drill also was a two-player race for a loose puck.

"You feel it, for sure, in your lungs," C Steven Stamkos said.

But beyond getting players in shape during what will be a 10-day layoff before the start of Game 1 of the East final on Saturday, the drills were a reminder of how they must play against Boston — by getting bodies in front of G Tim Thomas and gaining control of the puck.

"They have such an outstanding goalie," LW Sean Bergenheim said. "Hopefully we're going to be there for the rebounds."

"Obviously with the battle drills and skating, you're trying to get your game habits to win, especially against Boston," Stamkos said. "They have a great goaltender and a great defense we have to penetrate through. We're going to have to find a way."

The trouble was, C Dominic Moore said, players still are "pretty rusty," and coach Guy Boucher agreed ("not sharp").

Part of that, Boucher said, is "in Tampa, it's sunshine and there are palm trees. It feels like a vacation."

More to the point, though: "You'll never re-create game situations," he said. "You can do all the battling you want, all the skating you want. You'll never get to the level of an NHL playoff game. So the first period for us and for them is going to be a little shocker."

FEELING FINE: LW Simon Gagne, out since the opener of the East semifinal after his head slammed off the ice, said he will not be tentative in Game 1.

"I was ready to come back against Washington," he said. "I've felt good since it happened."

"We've been extremely careful about it," Boucher said. "He's the one who has been trying to push it because he's feeling really, really good. I thought he was flying (Thursday)."

NOT SO FINE: Boucher said he believes D Pavel Kubina (concussion-like symptoms) might play in the series, "but we won't see him at the beginning."

LINEUP: With D Randy Jones (high ankle sprain) playing just a combined 19 minutes, 11 seconds over the past three games, Boucher admitted his spot in the lineup might be an issue.

At the same time, he added, "Right now, we have a winning formula. We don't necessarily want to change that."

SIGNED: Highly regarded prospect Richard Panik signed a three-year deal believed to be worth $2.2 million if he plays in the NHL. The right wing, drafted in the second round (52nd overall) in 2009, had 27 goals and 56 points in 51 games last season for Belleville and Guelph of the Ontario junior league.

WATCH PARTIES: The Lightning will host watch parties at Shots restaurant at the Times Forum and on the West Plaza for Games 1 and 2 beginning at 6:30 p.m. There will be free parking in the West and VIP East lots and entertainment on the plaza before the games.

ODDS AND ENDS: A Lightning-themed sand structure will be at Tampa's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park today. Construction is from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. … A banner supporting the team will be hoisted at 11 a.m. today on the side of Tampa's Municipal Office Building. A free lunch will be offered.

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

Tampa Bay Lightning's practice drills serve two purposes 05/12/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2011 9:46pm]
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