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Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos: Players must be more responsible to reduce head shots

TAMPA — The way to reduce damaging blows to the head is for players to be more responsible for their actions, Lightning star C Steven Stamkos said.

"You have to be aware of where you are on the ice," Stamkos said Tuesday. "You realize you have back pressure, you're not going to try to cut in the middle, make a back pass and then watch your pass. At the same time, you're expecting to get hit but not in the head. That's where it falls onto the other player."

Hits to the head are again a hot topic with Penguins star Sidney Crosby out of Sunday's All-Star Game because of a concussion diagnosed after he sustained two hits to the hit in five days, the first from Washington's David Steckel and the second on a push into the glass by Tampa Bay D Victor Hedman.

Stamkos understands the furor but said he believes that besides league-mandated soft-cap shoulder pads and making blindside hits to the head illegal, "I don't think there's much else we could do."

"There are a lot of players you never see get hit because they're smart and they realize where they are on the ice and who's out against them and how to position themselves to prevent things like that," he said.

Of hits to the head, Stamkos said, "I don't think it's out of control. I don't feel when I'm on the ice I'm always keeping an eye out because someone is going to come try to take my head off. I don't think anyone would feel that way.

"But when someone with the caliber of Crosby gets hit and is out for a while, it obviously is not good for the game, and the media takes it. That's a pretty big story, and that adds to the fact.

Bottom line, he said, "It's a physical sport. It's meant to be physical. We've tried with the equipment and putting in the rules. The onus is on the players from here on out."

MALONE OUT AGAIN: W Ryan Malone sat out his second game with what coach Guy Boucher called a "midbody" injury sustained Friday against the Panthers.

Malone described what happened as "kind of a tweakage" of an existing low-level injury.

"It's not too serious," he said. "It's just one of those nagging or little injuries you want to take care of as soon as you can and get ready for the playoff push."

Malone said he "hopefully" will be back for Tuesday's game with the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers.

MORE INJURIES: Boucher said the left knee sprain of G Mike Smith is "not perfect" but "almost there." Smith, with AHL Norfolk on a conditioning stint, stopped 19 of 21 shots Tuesday in a 2-0 loss to Portland. In two games for the Admirals, Smith is 0-2-0 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. … Boucher said the original timetable to bring new D Marc-Andre Bergeron up from Norfolk, where he was assigned Jan. 6 to get in game shape, was a month. That will be evaluated after the All-Star break.

SMABY PLAYS: Matt Smaby said he was neither frustrated nor angry, but he was eager for his next chance.

"I have to make the best of what's happening," said the defenseman, who played Tuesday against the Maple Leafs after eight straight scratches. "I have to work hard and try to do better every day and be the best seventh D there is."

"He's a great soldier," Boucher said. "Every day he's practicing with everything he's got."

But the bottom line, he added, is "the other guys are ahead of him. When they're healthy, we're going to go with them."

Except when Tampa Bay goes with seven defensemen, which it did against Toronto.

ODDS AND ENDS: Flags outside the St. Pete Times Forum were at half-staff in memory of slain St. Petersburg police officers Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Thomas Baitinger. There was a moment of silence before the game. … The Lightning entered Tuesday with a league-best 17 one-goal wins. Of its previous 17 wins, 13 were by one goal. … F Mattias Ritola was scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos: Players must be more responsible to reduce head shots 01/25/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 6:25pm]

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