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SCRATCHED PLAYERS WAIT

For a couple of players who are doing a lot more time on the bench than on the ice, Lightning defenseman Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio have remarkably good attitudes.

Disappointed? Sure. Who wouldn't be as a healthy scratch in five of six games.

"I'm definitely itching to play," Barberio, a rookie, said Tuesday.

But both players seem to get the bigger picture explained to them by coach Jon Cooper.

"Is it ideal that I'm sitting in the press box? No, but it's part of my job," Aulie, 24, said. "Sometimes things don't go exactly how you want. You've got to be patient. I'm a young guy. I'm positive my opportunity will come."

"When it's your first year you have to take your bruises," Barberio, 23, said, "earn your ice."

Cooper knows the situation is difficult. That is why he kept communication open with the players.

"There's pluses and minuses to that," Cooper said of Aulie and Barberio being scratched. "The plus is you're probably staying injury-free and the guys (in the lineup) are playing pretty well. The negative is they're struggling to get in right now. You don't want that to break their spirit. You have to make sure they understand they're a big part of the team and they're going to be called on at some point."

Both players said they are well-informed about the team's thinking. Even so, said Aulie, who has played 122 NHL games, "It's a test mentally. You have to be patient and have trust in the organization. All I can do is come to work every day and keep on trying to get better."

A KINGS THING: It has been more than three years since Lightning RW Teddy Purcell was acquired (with a third-round pick) from the Kings for Jeff Halpern. But Purcell said it's still a big deal to play against his former team.

"It's fun playing against your old buddies," Purcell said. "Even though it didn't work out for me there, I have a lot of good memories, a real classy organization."

Purcell, traded to Tampa Bay in March 2010, scored on the Kings Tuesday in his third game against them. He is off to a career-best start with four goals (three on the power play) and eight points in his first six games.

"I have no hard feelings there," Purcell said, "but it's always fun to get a chance to beat your old team and help your team out. It's a little extra motivation."

MILD WEST: Cooper had an interesting take on why games against the Western Conference are like "sneaking the extra cookie; you're only allowed one but you take two."

"They're like free points," Cooper said. "If you don't get them you're not giving up any points to an Eastern Conference foe.

"Last year, when you were only playing Eastern Conference teams (because of the lockout-shortened schedule) there was no way to gain ground. Once you fell behind you couldn't come back. Here's your points when you can gain on people. Does it sting as much if you don't get the points? No. They're bonus points and you want them."

ODDS AND ENDS: Marty St. Louis gained his 900th Lightning point with a second assist on Ryan Malone's first-period goal. ... F Tom Pyatt (broken collar bone) also was scratched.

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