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Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman working to get pucks to the net

Defenseman Victor Hedman, working the puck against Atlanta on Oct. 9, is trying to get more of his shots on net.

JOSEPH GARNETT JR. | Times

Defenseman Victor Hedman, working the puck against Atlanta on Oct. 9, is trying to get more of his shots on net.

TAMPA — Victor Hedman said he has gone back to basics when it comes to shooting the puck: relax, keep your head up and look for the seams that lead to the net.

It still is a work in progress, but the Lightning defenseman showed big improvement during Monday's 5-4 victory over the Stars at the St. Pete Times Forum. Hedman had four shots, including one that led to Steven Stamkos' rebound goal with 13.2 seconds left in the first period.

"I just need to keep practicing, keep shooting," Hedman said. "That's when good things happen."

Hedman's problem is not about taking enough shots; it is about getting them on net. The 6-foot-6, 229-pound Swede has 11 shots on goal, but 15 other shots have been blocked or missed the net.

The problem was acute Oct. 13 in Montreal, where Hedman, 19, who put on a clinic rushing the puck and creating scoring opportunities for himself, took eight shots, four of which missed the net, costing at least one goal.

"I wasn't shooting for rebounds," Hedman said. "I was trying to find open areas of the net. As a defenseman, when you get those opportunities, you have to make sure you hit the net."

Coach Guy Boucher espouses shooting for the middle of the net because "you rarely get the middle. So, if you aim for outside (of the middle), you have a bigger chance of missing the net."

Still, Boucher said it is a matter of time before Hedman, with three assists and averaging a team-high 23:48 of ice time as he picks up the slack for injured Mattias Ohlund, lives up to the expectations for the No. 2 overall pick of the 2009 draft.

"He's going to be a player," Boucher said. "From the start of the year, he's the player that has progressed fastest. … He's doing the simple stuff right. He's using his speed, and for a big guy, that's impressive. He's got okay hands, and he shoots good, but his mobility is everything."

Generous goaltending: Here's an odd stat: The Lightning, despite winning four of five games, has allowed more goals (18) than it has scored (17).

Much of that is due to Saturday's 6-0 loss to the Panthers. Even so, Tampa Bay's goaltending entered Tuesday third worst in the league with a combined 3.55 goals-against average.

Mike Smith is 3-0-0 for the first time in his career, but his 3.41 goals-against average entered Tuesday tied for 32nd among 38 goalies the NHL lists. Dan Ellis' 4.00 goals-against average was 37th. Smith's .869 save percentage was tied for 34th. Ellis' .878 was 33rd.

Part of the game: Captain Vinny Lecavalier, out with an injured knuckle, said he doesn't believe he is snakebit when it comes to injuries.

"I haven't missed that many games because of injury," he said. "So, no, I don't think so."

But Lecavalier has overcome injuries. In addition to his knuckle, he still has a bruised left foot from the preseason. And over the past four summers, he had surgeries on both wrists, his right shoulder and left knee.

Lecavalier, 30, is right that he hasn't missed many games, playing fewer than 80 only three times in his previous 11 seasons. He has missed just 11 games since 2002, one because of a 2005 NHL suspension for high-sticking then-Ranger and now teammate Dominic Moore.

"Yeah, I've had injuries, but I repaired everything in the summertime," Lecavalier said. "Obviously, you'd like to go through a career pain free, but it's not going to happen. Everybody gets bruises. It's part of the game."

Odds and ends: After going 4-for-5 on the power play against the Stars, Tampa Bay entered Tuesday second in the league at 33.3 percent (8-for-24). … The Lightning Foundation presented a $10,000 check to Moffitt Cancer Center as part of Monday's Hockey Fights Cancer night.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman working to get pucks to the net 10/19/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 8:53am]

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