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Benoit Pouliot anxious to display creativity, offensive skill for Lightning

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

If there is any doubt about what Tampa Bay Lightning forward Benoit Pouliot is capable of, check out YouTube’s list of “Best NHL Goals From 2012.”

Select the first link, in which Pouliot appears twice, to see the forward showcase his stickhandling skills at both the 1:05 mark and again at the 1:27 spot of the video clip.

The first instance, albeit brief, features Pouliot cutting through the slot against the Montreal Canadiens and turning defenseman Chris Campoli inside out as he brings the puck from his backhand over to his forehand and fires a wrist shot past goaltender Carey Price.

The second clip shows Pouliot skating one-on-one against a Florida Panthers defender, where he brings the puck between his legs and back around through to the front before backhanding a shot from his knees to score against netminder Jose Theodore.

“I remember both of those,” Pouliot said. “Sometimes you have to try those things and just have fun with it, and please the crowd. They were both nice goals.”

Each indeeds emphasizes Pouliot’s knack for creativity and skilled offensive inclinations, but they also perhaps give the Lightning a preview of what he brings to the table.

With Tampa Bay already both strong and deep at the forward position, Pouliot, standing at 6-foot-3, provides both added size and grit, and can fill the void at left wing that the Lightning so badly need.

He’s got a lot of upside. He’s a big guy who can give us some secondary scoring, he can play on the power play, and he’s not afraid to go in front of the net. - Head Coach Guy Boucher

Add, too, that Pouliot is coming off a banner season in which he recorded an NHL career-high 32 points with the Boston Bruins while excelling on a line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. His 16 goals also came one short of tying an NHL-best 17, which he had during the 2009-10 season while splitting time between both the Canadiens and Minnesota Wild.

“He’s got a lot of upside,” said head coach Guy Boucher, who formerly coached Pouliot in Hamilton of the American Hockey League. “He’s a big guy who can give us some secondary scoring, he can play on the power play, and he’s not afraid to go in front of the net.”

The question, then, is not if he can play, but where.

He did log some time during the second half of Wednesday’s training camp scrimmage, a good portion of which focused on the Lightning special teams units. But with forward lines already somewhat crowded, and with Pouliot self-proclaiming that he is “just trying to fit in,” he wasn’t too quick to disclose any details regarding discussions he had with Boucher or general manager Steve Yzerman about in what situations he would best be used.

The Lightning acquired Pouliot in exchange for prospect Michel Ouellet on July 1, 2012.

“Whatever they want me to do, I’ll just do it,” Pouliot said. “Right now I’m bringing a lot of speed, I feel great, and my shot has been good this week at camp. When the day comes, we’ll figure it out.”

Problem is, that day is just around the corner.

The Lightning open up the season on Saturday at home against the division-rival Washington Capitals, and while Pouliot has looked good to this point in camp, he is still trying to figure out the important details of Boucher’s system, which he called “really far” from what he is used to.

With the Bruins last season, Pouliot said the system implemented by head coach Claude Julien was a lot more open, which by nature of being a winger, allowed him to move away from playing along the boards and use more of the middle of the ice to his advantage.

That, he said, is perhaps why he was afforded the opportunity to get creative on both of those goals, against the Canadiens and Panthers, respectively.

Since Boucher’s system is a little different, there is no telling how many chances Pouliot will have to add to his highlight-reel goal repertoire, but added, “if given an opportunity and the time is right, I’ll do it.”

And if it isn’t?

“Well, maybe in the shootout.”

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