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The Lightning got back to work today at the St. Pete Times Forum after last night’s shootout loss to the Panthers. Even though it was a loss, I doubt anyone would say that Tampa Bay deserved to lose that game. If anything I would say the Tomas Vokoun stole the game. The Lightning fired a franchise-record 52 shots, most of which were decent chances, at Vokoun but couldn’t get any past him until the third period when they stormed back to tie the game at three. Steven Stamkos
also had a breakout game as he was paired with Vincent Lecavalier
and Martin St. Louis
for a portion of it. He played a career-high 17:55 and recorded an assist, his first on home ice. Stamkos also fired nine shots on goal, a team record this season. Hopefully Radim Vrbata’s goal will jump start him a bit as well. I think you can certainly see a difference in the team’s play since Rick Tocchet took the reins as the head coach.
As for today, Ryan Malone
returned to the ice with the team for the first time since suffering a lower body injury that has caused him to miss the previous four games. Tocchet said Malone looked pretty good today and said he is pretty close to returning. Having Malone at his disposal will certainly help Tocchet’s “go to the net” philosophy. Tocchet also talked about the importance of getting point shots through to the net, using last night’s goal by Steve Eminger as an example. “It doesn’t even need to be a slap shot,” he said. “It can even be a wrist shot. When I was playing nothing frustrated me more than taking punishment in front of the net and the puck never gets there.”
Veterans Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi were both given the day off on the ice but were put through a vigorous off-ice work out. Tocchet told the pair this morning that they could have the day off. Speaking of days off, Tocchet said he is “big on days off.” He says that even on days off, he would still expect players to have what he called “active rest,” meaning that he expected players to still do some activity. It is his feeling that getting away from the rink will keep players fresh.
There seemed to be a lot being made of Al Strachan’s (yes him again) recent statements on Hockey Night in Canada that Lecavalier went to ownership regarding former coach Barry Melrose. Strachan even said on the show that he had not spoken to Lecavalier. Both Lecavalier and Tocchet refuted the statement today. Tocchet had the quote of the day while explaining how what actually happens within the locker room is more important than what the media is saying: “TSN, Globe and Mail, who cares.” Based on some of the “stories” Strachan has come up with regarding the Lightning as of late I don’t think you can blame Tocchet on bit.