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Lightning focus on correcting faceoff struggles

Without Steven Stamkos, the Lightning need to find help elsewhere in one of their weakest areas.
Tyler Johnson and the Lightning are trying to remedy their faceoff struggles, especially while captain Steven Stamkos is out of the lineup.
Tyler Johnson and the Lightning are trying to remedy their faceoff struggles, especially while captain Steven Stamkos is out of the lineup. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Apr. 19
Updated Apr. 20

TAMPA — Winning faceoffs might be one of the most underrated aspects to the game, but it’s a key component to puck possession and dictating play in the offensive zone.

It’s something the Lightning haven’t been good at this season. And with their top faceoff man, center Steven Stamkos, sidelined until at least May 5, it’s something they need to improve.

“There’s no doubt it’s a concern, and our centers, they’ve got to dig in,” coach Jon Cooper said. “And not every faceoff is won completely clean. It’s on our wingers as well. A little bit of our faceoff intensity has got to pick up. But there’s no question that with Stammer out, that puts a little void and especially on the right side for us.”

The Lightning rank 19th in faceoff percentage (49.5). Over the past four games, they won just 42.9 percent of their faceoffs, and were at 47.8 percent in Monday’s 3-2 overtime win over Carolina.

Cooper said the team needs better pursuit of the puck off the faceoffs. It was clear the Lightning were trying to do that Monday against Carolina, which ranks second in the league with a 54.1 percentage.

Wings jockeyed for position from the outset. Lightning forward Blake Coleman and Carolina forward Nino Niederreiter were sent to the box for getting too physical 3:26 into the game.

And in the second period, when Carolina’s Jordan Martinook tried to put his stick in Alex Killorn’s midsection while lining up for a faceoff, Killorn held it there, frustrating Martinook when he couldn’t get it loose to chase the puck, prompting some shoving.

“We’ve started to take this mentality that faceoffs are a five-man job,” Cooper said. “It’s just not on the center. The center loses it clean and it’s snapped right back, well, that’s one thing. But a lot of these faceoffs that are 50/50s, 60/40s, those are ours. They’ve got to be ours.”

Hockey Fights Cancer night Tuesday

As part of the Lightning’s annual Hockey Fights Cancer night Tuesday, special lavender warmup jerseys, lavender-taped warmup sticks and mystery pucks will be auctioned off, starting at 10 a.m. at www.boltshfc.givesmart.com.

Before the game — in the 15-minute circle on Channelside Drive — Moffitt Cancer Center and the Lightning will be collecting donations (new and packaged blankets, socks, beanies and hats). Donations can also be made online by visiting www.tampabaysports.com/moffitt.

Quick shots

With Monday’s win, the Lightning improved to 22-0-0 when leading after two periods. ... Tampa Bay is 3-0 at home against Carolina, outscoring the Hurricanes 9-3 in those games. They are 12-1-0 in their past 13 home meetings with Carolina. ... The Lightning are 6-1-0 in the first half of back-to-back sets. They are 4-2 in the second half. ... Yanni Gourde’s overtime goal was the fifth of his career, ranking sixth on the Lightning’s all-time list.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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