TAMPA — The Lightning's most interesting stat line might belong to Teddy Purcell.
The right wing is tied with Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis for second on the team with 10 points. But Purcell's average 13:19 of ice time is six minutes less than Stamkos' and 6:48 less than St. Louis'.
Purcell, with four goals and six assists, seems to be doing more with less.
"He's a good player," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "He takes advantage of his minutes when he's on the ice."
The question, then, is why isn't he playing more?
Because, coach Guy Boucher said, Purcell "is an enigma sometimes. He's a player who can give you a lot and make very smart, surprising plays. He just has a tendency to fall asleep."
It is an old lament from Boucher, who wants players with complete games, not just offensive inclinations. And it is why Boucher, who once said Purcell doesn't realize how good he can be, described the player as a work in progress, though he is on track for 30 goals and 75 points.
"To get more ice time, there's a lot more than production," Boucher said. "In his case, it's always been the same. Can (Purcell) bring a relentless attitude in his game and a physical involvement? We're not talking about body checks, we're talking physical involvement. Are you going to be first on the puck, or are you going to let the opponent take the puck?"
Purcell, 26, knows all this, of course, and Boucher punctuated it by scratching him from an Oct. 15 game with the Panthers, something Purcell called an "early lesson."
In seven games since, Purcell, with one of the best shots on the team and on a line with Stamkos and Ryan Malone, has three goals and seven points, and is plus-3. His 15:49 of ice time in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes was his season high.
"I feel like I'm skating more and being more consistent," Purcell said.
He acknowledged he must improve his defensive consistency. That would be handy tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum against the Blackhawks, who entered Thursday tied for No. 1 in the Western Conference. It also would increase his chances for more ice time.
"I don't kill penalties, and if we're up a couple of goals the last couple of minutes, the more reliable guys are out there, which is fine," Purcell said. "I'm a team guy, and I do what I'm told and try to do as much as I can. I just try to be positive and take stuff out of it."
The thing is, Purcell can play as Boucher wants. He did it in last season's playoffs, when he had six goals and 17 points in 18 games.
But that came after a typically up-and-down regular season in which Purcell still earned career bests of 17 goals and 51 points.
"It's a question of managing and keeping him consistent," Boucher said. "When he plays the way he did at the end of (last season), he was outstanding."
"You always want more minutes as a player, but you have to do what's right for the team," Purcell said. "I have to keep staying the course.
"I'm getting 13 minutes. Hopefully, I keep getting better and keep proving myself."
OUTBOUND: It might not happen soon, but right wing Mattias Ritola, who cleared waivers Thursday, likely will be sent to AHL Norfolk. Ritola has zero points in five games with an average 10:50 of ice time.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.