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Lightning's focus remains on the ice as the trade deadline approaches

Bolts players and coaches are confident any move made before Monday's deadline will benefit the team

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

 

With one day remaining until Monday's 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline, the Tampa Bay Lightning, so far, have stood pat.

That's the luxury you have when leading the NHL by 15 points and own more wins (47) through 62 games than any other team in League history. No move might be the best move.

But still, there's always that thought one or two more pieces might put the team over the top, allowing it to achieve the ultimate goal: winning a Stanley Cup.

So, while the Lightning returned to the rink Sunday at the Ice Sports Forum after a rare, late-season two days off, speculation and rumors swirled on Twitter and among the fans in attendance about who the team might pick up.

Video: Jon Cooper on the trade deadline

It's outside noise the Lightning say doesn't affect them. Nonetheless, it's still interesting to see what's going on around the League and wonder what their own roster might look like Monday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings at AMALIE Arena.

"It's those days where you look at twitter the most probably of the year, you want to see what's happening around the league," Tampa Bay forward Yanni Gourde said. "But for me, it's just worry about hockey and not worry about what's happening out there."

Jon Cooper has been through a few trade deadline scenarios during his seven years as Tampa Bay's head coach. Two seasons ago, the Lightning were sellers, moving a couple veteran players, including goalie Ben Bishop, before the deadline to retool for the future. Last season, the Lightning made a big splash at the deadline, bringing in defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller, a move that made the Bolts a better team for last season's playoff run but also fortified this season's roster.

Cooper has confidence in Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois and the rest of the management team that if they do make a deal, it will be one that makes the team better. And if no deal is made, well the Lightning are certainly fine with that too considering their place in the League standings.

"I know my position's different than our general manager's no question," Cooper said when asked following Sunday's practice how he handles the days leading up to the trade deadline. "When we're on a day-to-day basis with our team, we're working on making our team better every single day and it's not that bringing in more players necessarily is going to do that. Last year clearly did, but those are few and far between. I think when you look at these situations, you look at your team and if there's situations where you can make the team a little bit better, staff gets together as a group, as management, and they make a decision. But it's not make a trade to make a trade. We like our group. Every single year, management's done an excellent job of making sure nothing's been disrupted when things have been added and I'm sure whatever happens, it'll be a good thing for us.

"And that could be nothing."

As much as Sunday's practice was about wondering who, if anybody, the Lightning might pick up by the trade deadline, it was also about continuing to perfect the details of their game, which has rounded into shape quite nicely with 20 contests remaining in the regular season. The Lightning are currently on an eight-game win streak, tied for their longest of the season and one win from tying the franchise record for a win streak. The Bolts have also picked up points in 12-consecutive games, part of the reason why they've been able to amass such a sizable lead in the standings.

Video: Yanni Gourde on Bolts' attention to detail

It's a self-motivated group, this Lightning team, one that's able to fine tune without needing much prodding. Cooper said if things start to go off the rails a bit, he and his staff are there to get everybody on the same page.

"That hasn't happened too often this year," he admits.

But it's this challenge the team creates from within, this mission to be the best team it can possibly be, that has made this run a truly historic one even by NHL standards.

"I think we want to improve every single night," Gourde said. "Our leadership group has been very good, very sound of keeping us humble and making sure we're working hard every single night. Every game is very important for us. It's a chance to get better at basically everything we do on the ice. We always want to get better, and I think we approach every single game like a chance to get better. Some opponents that we face are maybe a first-round opponent, so it's always important to go into those games and be ready because we might face them and see what they bring and what we bring."

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