TAMPA — Lightning wing Ryan Malone is known for doing the dirty work in front of the net, looking to screen, looking to battle.
But coach Guy Boucher pointed out several weeks ago that Malone wasn't looking enough to score.
Boucher showed Malone video of when his stick was in the air and he missed opportunities for rebounds and deflections. "I was like, 'Geez, maybe that's why I'm not scoring,' " Malone said.
Malone worked at it and made adjustments with his positioning. It has paid off, as he has racked up five goals and 14 points in his past 13 games, stepping in nicely on the top line for injured Steve Downie and ranking third on the team in points (behind Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis).
The Lightning (21-10-5) will certainly need Malone's presence in front the net tonight against the Bruins, who boast the league's top goaltender in Tim Thomas.
Boucher said though he gave Malone some tips, the 6-foot-4, 219-pound forward deserves all the credit for the scoring surge.
"The thing he was doing before, he was fighting bodies," Boucher said. "He wasn't fighting to get the puck. I told him, 'You've got to have the puck. Stop trying to bang everybody and go to the net to fight with other bodies with sticks in the air. You're there to score goals. You're going to screen, but you're going to screen with your stick on the ice.'
"He worked really hard in practice. We looked at video. He never had his stick on the ice. He never was around the net to score. Now he's going there to score. Plus, he's using his speed a lot more to be first on puck rather than to hit."
Malone has always had it in him, having boasted five 20-goal seasons in his career. But Boucher said that many times, he has seen players lose sight of their primary objective in front of the crease, which is to "battle to score."
Boucher said Malone also had his knees more straight instead of bent, making it more difficult to quickly pounce on rebounds.
"I obviously didn't realize I was doing it until he told me," Malone said. "That definitely helped."
Though Malone and the Lightning enter tonight's game at the St. Pete Times Forum on a 6-0-2 stretch, Boucher made sure to remind them how they fared the last time in Boston, losing 8-1.
"We were put to shame that game," Boucher said. "It was tough; we were missing a lot of players, but still. We need to do better (tonight)."
And it continues a tough five-game stretch for the Lightning, which plays five of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference over two weeks, including matchups on the road next week against the Capitals and Penguins.
"Those games mean a lot because they're top teams, fighting for first place," Boucher said. "For us, it's a good measuring stick right now, and we want to make sure that we measure ourselves with the best of our abilities and see where we are."
NOTES: Goalie Dan Ellis will start for the Lightning. … Defenseman Randy Jones (upper body) is questionable with an injury suffered Sunday.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.