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World junior tourney not on radar of Tampa Bay Lightning's Brett Connolly

NASHVILLE — One thing rookie Brett Connolly might have to forfeit now that the Lightning has kept him rather than send him back to juniors is playing for Canada in the world junior championship.

Much will depend on how Connolly plays. The right wing has a better chance of participating in the December-January tournament in Calgary and Edmonton if his game slumps a bit.

"He plays on our top lines, so we need him," coach Guy Boucher said. "But sometimes you feel getting a few weeks with guys his own age to see where he's at is good for his confidence."

Boucher, an assistant on Canada's 2009 gold-medal team, is an advocate of playing in the tournament. He believes dealing with the pressure-packed atmosphere and playing against the best in the world at one's age level only helps player development.

But if Connolly, 19, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2010 draft, remains a fixture on a line with C Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, it would be tough losing him for the two-week event.

"We'll have to see how he's doing when the time comes," GM Steve Yzerman said.

Connolly, with three assists in seven games for Canada's 2011 silver-medal team, said he has not heard if he will play.

"My focus right now is on the Lightning," he said. "When and if Steve wants me to do that, we'll deal with that when it comes."

"Those decisions have to be made, but right now, we're not there at all," Boucher said. "We're at how to get him better with us."

DEVELOPING STORY: When it came to deciding whether to keep Connolly or send him back to Prince George of the junior Western league, Lecavalier said there was just one choice.

"For a guy of his caliber, how strong he is and mature physically, it's going to be better for him in the NHL," Lecavalier said. "He'll improve a lot more."

Lecavalier went through a similar situation. The No. 1 overall draft pick of 1998 could have been sent back to Rimouski of the junior Quebec league. Instead, at 18, he played 1998-99 with Tampa Bay.

He had just 28 points, with 13 goals, but said the experience was a key to him getting 25 goals and 67 points in 1999-2000. "I thought if I went back, I wouldn't have improved," he said. "Now, you come back (after a year in the NHL), you have a year under your belt, and you just get better. You've built that confidence."

PENALTY KILLERS: After committing 11 penalties and giving the Panthers nine power plays (five of which turned into goals) on Oct. 17, the Lightning gave just 11 power plays in its past four games, and all were killed. "It was stick penalties. That's what was killing us," Boucher said. "To me, they were lazy penalties. It's hooking and tripping, all the things you can't have. If you're skating, you won't have to do that, and we got rid of that."

ODDS AND ENDS: Two assists in the 5-3 loss to the Predators gave Marc-Andre Bergeron a league-best 12 points among defensemen. … Five goals are a season high for Nashville, which won at home for the first time in four tries. … RW Teddy Purcell played his 200th NHL game. … Forwards Ryan Shannon and Mattias Ritola and D Bruno Gervais were scratched.

World junior tourney not on radar of Tampa Bay Lightning's Brett Connolly 10/27/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 12:38am]
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