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Team efforts to reshape his game are paying off for Lightning rookie Steven Stamkos

Over the past two weeks, Steven Stamkos has watched games from the press box, had study sessions with assistant coach Wes Walz and hit the weight room to add muscle.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Over the past two weeks, Steven Stamkos has watched games from the press box, had study sessions with assistant coach Wes Walz and hit the weight room to add muscle.

The schooling of Steven Stamkos starts with a piece of paper and a pen.

Time in the weight room is important, too, as the Lightning rookie adds needed muscle to a 6-foot, 180-pound frame.

But it is the cerebral, perhaps even more than the physical, that will fuel Stamkos as he tries to reshape his game.

When Stamkos is in the press box as an occasional healthy scratch, the coaching staff expects him to take notes, jot down observations and tendencies, anything that can be discussed the next day in a "classroom" session with assistant coach Wes Walz.

"He just doesn't go up and sit there and look at the ice girls," coach Rick Tocchet said. "He's watching the game."

It seems to be having an effect.

In the two weeks in which Stamkos has crammed with Walz and hit the weights with strength and conditioning coach Chuck Lobe, he has two goals and four points in four games and has played some of his best hockey of the season.

Just in time, too, as Stamkos, the No. 1 pick in last summer's draft, tonight plays in the YoungStars three-on-three showcase, part of All-Star Weekend in Montreal.

"To me, this is going to be a fun experience," Stamkos, 18, said. "Just go, and get some relaxation time in when you can, and get ready to go down the stretch."

Stamkos' shine had dulled a bit by the time Tocchet announced the "process" in which the rookie would be scratched occasionally to watch and learn and put into an amped-up workout program.

The Unionville, Ontario, native, who entered the season with expectations fueled in part by the team's relentless promotion, is 13th among rookies with 18 points, tied for 17th with six goals and tied for 155th at minus-8 among 163 listed players. He also averages just 12:57 of ice time.

Stamkos was scratched twice in Tampa Bay's past seven games. If the Lightning practices at noon, the forward is in Walz's office at 10 a.m. to go over his notes and watch video.

"The one thing I told Steven is that during this whole process, I'm going to do everything I can to help him," said Walz, 38, who played 13 NHL seasons. "But I'm also going to be honest with him … bluntly honest with him.

"Hopefully, I can build a relationship with him that he respects me. I know there's going to be days when he's (mad) at me and wants to hit me over the head with a hockey stick, but that's okay, too."

The good news, Walz said: "For an 18-year-old, he has a pretty good knowledge of the game, way better than I did at that age."

Stamkos said the sessions with Walz have made "a dramatic change to my game."

Such as?

"Just stopping for pucks in front of the net," he said. "I was going past the net, and against Dallas, I stop in front of the net and a puck comes."

And he scored.

"Staying in the middle of the ice in the defensive zone when the puck is at the point; if the puck gets through, you're there. Just staying low in the defensive end, supporting the wings; little things you don't really notice unless you're looking for them."

Or writing them down.

Where/where: Bell Centre, Montreal

Today: SuperSkills competition and YoungStars game, 7 p.m, Versus.

Sunday: All-Star Game, 6 p.m., Versus

FAST FACTS

All-Star weekend

When/where: Bell Centre, Montreal

Tonight: SuperSkills competition, YoungStars game, 7. TV: Versus

Sunday: All-Star Game, 6 p.m. TV: Versus

Lightning participants: All-Stars Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis; YoungStar Steven Stamkos

. FAST FACTS

Tease headline

Today: SuperSkills competition and YoungStars game, 7 p.m, Versus.

Sunday: 57th All-Star Game, 6 p.m., Versus.

Team efforts to reshape his game are paying off for Lightning rookie Steven Stamkos 01/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 11:07pm]

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