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Tampa Bay Lightning's special teams need some work

Coach Guy Boucher says big changes would be a mistake — 
the power play and penalty kill just require better execution.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Coach Guy Boucher says big changes would be a mistake — the power play and penalty kill just require better execution.

TAMPA — Coach Guy Boucher conceded the Lightning's special teams need some work.

No need to belabor the point and spoil another night's sleep by discussing the actual numbers.

"I slept two hours last night and one the night before," Boucher said Monday. "I know what the numbers are."

They are brutal.

Tampa Bay has not had more than one power-play goal in a game since Dec. 20 against the Hurricanes, a stretch of 26 games in which it is 14-for-105 with the extra man; its 13.3 percent efficiency about five points below the league average.

The penalty kill has allowed goals in seven straight games during which it killed 20 of 29 power plays (going 2-of-6 in its past two games) for a 68.9 percent efficiency 13 points below the league average.

No surprise Tampa Bay is in a 2-3-2 stretch.

What is startling is the team used to be top-five in the league in both disciplines. It entered Monday seventh on the power play at 19.8 percent, 13th on the penalty kill at 82.2 percent.

"It's been very frustrating," Boucher said.

At various times on the power play, the team has had trouble entering the offensive zone, controlling the puck once it gets in and finishing plays after it set up.

"We're spending so much time chasing the puck, if we get 30 seconds of zone time, that might be it," left wing Simon Gagne said. "Whether it's working harder to get the puck or making your plays, we have to get better at it."

As for the penalty kill, "Maybe it's just not enough urgency," left wing Dana Tyrell said, "but it seems like pucks are going through us and pucks are going off skates."

Which leads to this: Tampa Bay, 0-for-6 on the power play Saturday against Florida, failed with the extra man in the third, allowed a power-play goal to tie it late in the period and lost in a shootout.

You could point out Gagne has not scored in eight games, Marty St. Louis has one goal in 14 and Steve Downie has been a major offender turning the puck over on the power play.

You also could note Dwayne Roloson let in 23 goals in his past five games. A team's best penalty killer, after all, is its goalie.

But the key on both sides of the puck is execution, Boucher said. That is why he is not adding new wrinkles but practicing the old.

"If you panic, then you're really sinking," Boucher said. "Right now, we're hanging on with a floater. If we continue to hammer at things differently, then we sink. … So, instead of changing, we're making sure we're doing the same things, just better."

Getting away might help. Players bused to Naples for a round of golf after Monday's practice at the St. Pete Times Forum. They skate today at Germain Arena in Estero, where the team shares an ECHL affiliate with Carolina.

The plan is to break up the monotony of a 12-game homestand that has two games to go.

"It puts the guys in a hockey environment," Boucher said. "That's the one thing you get on the road, it's only hockey, therefore your focus is narrow.

"Focus and poise go hand in hand and is what the power play and PK is all about. That's what we're struggling with."

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

Tampa Bay Lightning's special teams need some work 02/21/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 21, 2011 9:30pm]

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