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NEXT ROAD TRIP IMPORTANT, GM SAYS

An upcoming five-game road trip will be important in determining what, if any, personnel moves the Lightning makes, general manager Brian Lawton said Thursday.

"I'm really looking forward to that to form some serious opinions of what goes on here."

The trip begins Wednesday in New Jersey and goes through Manhattan, Philadelphia, Washington and South Florida.

Because of "the newness of everything," Lawton said, he is in fact-finding mode. "My job ... is to get to know this team like the back of my hand. I don't feel that I'm there yet at all."

Lawton said he intends to be at almost every game and practice except for around the March 4 trade deadline and during the junior world championships in late December-early January, when he will scout.

For what is Lawton looking?

"From a macro view, the direction of the team; what is the personality of our team, what is our chemistry as a group," he said. "From an individual level, trying to get a full accounting of where every player is. What can they take, and what's too much for them. What's the breaking point, and trying to build our team out from there."

NEW-LOOK POWER PLAY: With rookie Steven Stamkos getting more power-play time, coach Barry Melrose is trying four forwards on the top unit, including RW Marty St. Louis at the point. C Vinny Lecavalier also rotates there, but St. Louis controls the play.

Melrose said the move is as much about a lack of a true quarterback among the defensemen.

"Right now we just don't have a defenseman who is that type of D," he said. "To run a point, you have to have ice water in your veins. You have to have moxie, and you have to be willing to wait out the forechecker.

"That's why Marty is so good. Marty has ice water in his veins."

RECONSTRUCTION: Taking Vinny Prospal off Lecavalier's line Monday and Tuesday at practice, only to reunite him with Lecavalier and St. Louis for the game with the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, had several purposes, Melrose said.

"Dr. Frankenstein, baby," he said. "I'm experimenting. And you're trying to wake guys up, too. ... Just because I took Vinny off doesn't mean I was trying to wake Prospal up. Sometimes it's the other way around, too."

ODDS AND ENDS: Melrose said that F Ryan Craig (groin) is ready. ... RW Radim Vrbata (groin), D Janne Niskala and W Jason Ward were scratched. ... Rays Appreciation Night is Saturday. Fans wearing team garb can buy tickets for the Senators game at a 50 percent discount. Tickets must be bought Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum box office.

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