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Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier works on late-season revival

Vinny Lecavalier is practicing at a new position on the power play, vowing to end a scoring slump and lead a final playoff push.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Vinny Lecavalier is practicing at a new position on the power play, vowing to end a scoring slump and lead a final playoff push.

TAMPA — Ninety minutes.

That is how long after Monday's practice Vinny Lecavalier spent with assistant coach Adam Oates discussing how the Lightning captain will integrate into a new position on the power play and get time on the No. 1 unit.

"It's a position I've never played," Lecavalier said of down low to the right of the net. "But I've practiced there the past few days. If I get a chance to play there, I will do my best."

Perhaps it will spark the center out of his scoring slump at just the right time as Tampa Bay, one point out of a playoff spot with 21 games left, resumes its season tonight against the Flyers at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Lecavalier has just 15 goals and is on pace for 20, which would be his fewest since he scored 20 in 2001-02.

On a team in which the line of center Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Steve Downie has 24 of the team's past 32 goals, a Vinny revival would be an enormous boost for a franchise trying to reach the postseason for the first time in three years.

That was the pep talk coach Rick Tocchet gave Lecavalier in a Sunday meeting that included power-play talk.

"We talked about how we have to move forward," Lecavalier said. "There's 21 games left. That's the season right there. …If I chip in more and help the team win, you forget about the first 61."

"He has 21 games, like I have 21 games, like Marty, like everybody has 21 games to do some real damage here," Tocchet said. "With his record in the past, there's a good chance he's going to thrive. … We're going to put him in situations where he can succeed and see where he goes."

Where Lecavalier seems headed is a rotation into the No. 1 unit. Lecavalier has played mostly with the second group as the first of Stamkos, St. Louis, Downie, Ryan Malone and point man Kurtis Foster helped push the Oates-coached power play from 19th in the league to ninth at 19 percent.

The second unit is not nearly as successful, and Lecavalier, with double-digit power-play goals in four straight seasons, has just two, tying his career low set as a rookie.

Tocchet said Lecavalier will not play exclusively with the top unit. That will be determined by game situations. Still, the hope is that putting him with the team's other top players, even occasionally, will ignite his game.

Lecavalier also will at times play next to the right-side wall or in the middle of the ice. But getting him down low allows him to use his 6-foot-4, 223-pound frame to get rebounds or tip-ins.

"It gives us another guy to put the puck in the net," Foster said. "You get Vinny out there and he can make a play in that spot. He can hit Stammer back door, and he's such a big guy, he can protect the puck and score himself. If he's out there, it will definitely help."

Lecavalier's confidence, too, as he is without a point in five straight games. He leads the team with 212 shots but converts at just 7.1 percent.

Stamkos has 20 more goals with 12 fewer shots.

"I want the production to be better," Lecavalier said. "It's been an up-and-down year, but I'm confident I can help the team. We're in the race, so everybody has to do more, including myself.

"It comes with the responsibility of being the captain. It comes with the territory, and I'm up for the challenge. We're right there. I know we can do it. I know I can do it."

Around the league

SABRES: U.S. Olympic hero Ryan Miller apparently will rest tonight when the Sabres play the Penguins, with Patrick Lalime starting in goal and Miller returning Wednesday against the Capitals.

Islanders: Goaltender Rick DiPietro is out indefinitely with knee swelling. DiPietro, who has battled several injuries the past four years, did not practice Monday. He visited a doctor to have his leg checked out after he felt stiffness and swelling in his left knee after practice Sunday.

Trades: The Predators acquired Oilers defenseman Denis Grebeshkov for a second-round pick in this year's draft. Grebeshkov has 19 points, including six goals, in 47 games this season, his third. … The Blues acquired goaltender Joe Fallon from the Blackhawks for goalie Hannu Toivonen and defenseman Danny Richmond.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tonight

Lightning

vs. Flyers

When/where: 7:30; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

TV/radio: Versus; 620-AM

Key stats: Lightning C Steven Stamkos, who leads the NHL with 15 power-play goals, has 10 goals and 13 assists in a 13-game points streak that is tied for the league's longest active. … The Flyers have won four straight. … Tampa Bay is 0-3-0 against Philadelphia this season, has been outscored 15-5 and is 0-for-10 on the power play.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier works on late-season revival 03/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 2, 2010 7:42am]
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