Four games ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning
headed out on the road, seeking a measure of consistency. Monday night they return to the St. Pete Times Forum having found some, but not the sort they had hoped for.
The Lightning (12-15-2) will face the New Jersey Devils
(14-13-1), having dropped six of their last seven games while being outscored by their opponents, 27-13 -- certainly not the sort of reliability coach Guy Boucher
was hoping to find.
"Consistency comes from habits, and there are a lot of things that are not habits for us this year," Boucher said.
"Turnovers have killed us and we don't have a powerhouse offense. We've got three big names, but no secondary scoring. When we try to 'run and gun' it, we don't look consistent like we're supposed to.
"We don't have consistency because we don't have the same attention to details and habits. The chemistry is different."
Monday will be the second of four meetings this season between these two clubs; New Jersey took the first matchup 4-2 on Nov. 19, also in Tampa. In that contest, Ryan Carter
and David Clarkson
led the Devils with a goal and an assist apiece.
Martin St. Louis
scored for Tampa Bay, but he won't be on the ice Monday night as he continues his recovery from facial fractures suffered when he was hit in the face with a puck during the morning skate Dec. 8 in New York.
"It's unrealistic right now to think St. Louis can return before Christmas," Boucher said. "Not having him puts a gigantic hole in our lineup."
That gigantic hole may be viewed most clearly on the power play, where the Lightning are sporting a 2-for-23 success rate.
"We've got less movement on the power play now," Boucher said. "Marty (St. Louis) created things that weren't planned. You can't expect to do the same things without Marty."
Despite St. Louis' absence, the Devils are not taking anything for granted.
"The Lightning are still a really good team without him," Zach Parise
said. "But he's probably their best overall player. When you lose that, other players will elevate their game, so I'm sure they'll be tough."
For Tampa Bay, things have been tough in a different sort of way.
"It's a very trying year with lots of adversity," Boucher said. "And that’s good. That's how you build -- through adversity."