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More ice time, new coach seem to agree with Stamkos

Wednesday, 11.19.2008 / 12:48 PM / NHL Insider

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"We've been talking to him a lot, keeping his spirits up, and you can tell the last three or four days he's light on his feet, bouncing around in practice and you can tell that he's excited," Tocchet told reporters. "He deserved the ice time tonight. He gets nine shots; some guys don't get that in a month."
-- Rich Tocchet on Tuesday night's performance by Steven Stamkos

It may be just two games, but the change behind the Tampa Bay Lightning bench seems to be doing a world of good for Steven Stamkos.

The first pick of the 2008 Entry Draft, Stamkos had an assist and fired nine shots on goal in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the nine shots tied the highest single-game shot total by a rookie during the past three seasons. Boston's Phil Kessel accomplished the feat against Ottawa on Oct. 28, 2006, and the Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky reached the mark against Buffalo on Feb. 23, 2008.

No rookie has reached double-figures in shots since Washington's Alex Ovechkin did so seven times in the 2005-06 season.

Stamkos' flurry came on a night when the Lightning fired a franchise-record 52 shots, but also came on a night when Stamkos played a season-high 17:55. That follows the 15:10 he played Sunday against Carolina, which also was more than he had previously played.

When interim coach Rick Tocchet replaced Barry Melrose last Friday, one of the things Tocchet wanted to do was get Stamkos more ice time. Under Melrose, Stamkos never played more than 15 minutes in a game, was averaging a little less than 12 minutes a game and failed to reach the 10-minute mark of ice time in five games, including Melrose’s last on Nov. 13.

Many felt the inconsistent amount of ice time was affecting the rookie's performance. In 16 games under Melrose, Stamkos had 2 goals, 4 points and was a minus-7.

Sunday night, Tocchet sent a message to the youngster when he had Stamkos take the opening faceoff against Rod Brind'Amour, one of the best face-off men in the League.

Tuesday, he had Stamkos start the game on the wing on a line with All-Stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

"I definitely felt really good out there, and starting the game playing with Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis helped me to get my confidence going," Stamkos told reporters. "Interim coach Rick Tocchet has been great with me, giving me an opportunity out there, and you definitely feel like you are in the game. I had tons of shots and was making some plays offensively and I felt great."

Tocchet said he will make sure those good feelings continue.

"We've been talking to him a lot, keeping his spirits up, and you can tell the last three or four days he's light on his feet, bouncing around in practice and you can tell that he's excited," Tocchet told reporters. "He deserved the ice time tonight. He gets nine shots; some guys don't get that in a month."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.
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