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by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
tbl.commentator - Melanie Formentin

If the first quarter of the 2006-07 season is any indication, Vincent Lecavalier is on pace for a career year.

Through his first 17 games Lecavalier has been nothing short of stellar, and with an 11-game point-scoring streak it appears the eighth-year center won't be slowing down anytime soon. The streak, a personal best for Lecavalier, includes 10 goals and eight assists.

In regard to Lecavalier's personal accomplishments, that's just the beginning.

In the midst of the streak Lecavalier had a career-best four assists in a game (at Boston on Novermber 4), which also tied him for the franchise record for assists in a game. Then there was the career-high six-game goal-scoring streak from October 21 to November 2, as well as the four power-play goals and the two game-winners. The list of accomplishments keeps going.

So while the 6-foot-4 center is on pace for both career and franchise highs, Lecavalier isn't letting those thoughts creep into his mind. His visions center on approaching the remainder of the season one game at a time.

"I really go with short-term goals, go game by game," Lecavalier said. "In the next 10 games I'll play like this, or do that, and I really take it game by game. I really think that's helped me to focus on each particular game."

Focusing on each game is likely what helped Lecavalier's line break the Lightning out of an early season slide. By remaining patient, they slowly helped revive the power play and get the team back on track.

Lecavalier's four power-play goals tie him for the team lead with Martin St. Louis, which puts both on track to surpass the franchise record of 16 power-play goals in a season, a mark set by Brian Bradley during the 1992-93 season.

Logically, the key to keeping up such a pace is to keep doing what Lecavalier feels he's been doing well as of late: skating hard and shooting the puck.

"I think I've been skating a lot, I've been using my feet with the puck and that's been opening up a lot of plays for me," Lecavalier said. "Playing with Marty [St. Louis] has also been going very well. So I just approach the games very differently. I'm shooting the puck when I get the chance."

The chance has been coming often for Lecavalier, who has spent recent games on a line with St. Louis and Nikita Alexeev. Through the November 11 game against the Atlanta Thrashers, Lecavalier was third on the Lightning in shots with 50 and had connected on a team-leading 20 percent of those shots.

While Lecavalier's method of focusing on each game is best for him, it's hard for others to not look ahead and dream of what the season potentially holds.

Based on his point totals through 17 games, Lecavalier is on pace for 48 goals, 57 assists and 105 points. Not only would all of those be career highs for Lecavalier, but the goal and point totals would be franchise records. The assist totals would tie him for second in franchise history with teammates Brad Richards and Vaclav Prospal.

A player can't reach all of those point totals alone however, and should the line of St. Louis, Lecavalier and Alexeev keep on its current pace the fans can expect a lot of excitement.

"It's been great," Lecavalier said of playing with St. Louis and Alexeev. "I liked playing with Vinny Prospal and [Ruslan] Fedotenko, and I think Marty is a little bit different player. He's a really fast guy, he's always ahead of the play and he scares the other team off so their defense really backs off. He gives us a lot of room to play."

As evidenced by his point totals and strong play, it appears Lecavalier has happily jumped into the extra space. The strong play through the beginning of the season is just the start, though. Lecavalier recognizes that in order to remain successful he has to continue to work hard throughout the year.

"That's the toughest part I think, the next 40 games," Lecavalier said. "There's still 60-some games left, and that's a lot of hockey. So I just stay ready, stay focused every game; just go game by game and try to be as consistent as possible."

Based on the scoring streak, one could argue that there is a new consistency to his game. With tall expectations placed on Lecavalier entering the season, the forward appears to be stepping up to the challenge. In striving for consistency and taking one game at a time, Lecavalier is quietly turning this season into a career year. In the grand scheme of things, that is something that is hard not to look forward to.
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