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Lightning turn focus to defense after hot start

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- After scoring 37 goals over the first seven games of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been held to three in the past two games.

It's no surprise that they were 6-1 and now they're 6-3 after losses to the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

"We can't expect to score five or six goals a game," Lightning center Steven Stamkos told "You take the run as long as possible, it was fun, but you realize this League is very tight checking and it's tough to score goals. We maybe fell victim of expecting to score goals."

They're not expecting goals to be easy to come by Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, so the focus for the Lightning now is all about a mindset of understanding that just because goals aren't coming like they were doesn't mean they can get impatient and try to force the issue.

They tried that against the Rangers and lost 3-2. Same thing against the Flyers, and it was a similar fate in a 2-1 defeat.

The Devils have already played in five one-goal games this season and have held their opponent to two or fewer goals in six of their nine games.

"We lost those two games [to the Rangers and Flyers] by one goal because we were impatient trying to get the go-ahead goal," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "When you're 1-1 against the Rangers, who were ranked No. 1 in the conference before the year started, after two periods you don't need to be impatient. You're in a perfect spot and you need to be patient, but not passive.

"When you're a little impatient and you create 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s, that's when the opponent capitalizes," he continued. "Teams like the Rangers, they're very good defensively and they do wait for you to make those mistakes. Jersey is the same. So, we certainly don't want to sabotage ourselves. If the other team beats us it's because they have to manufacture something, not because we give it away."

Boucher, who spoke to the media prior to the morning skate Thursday wasn't certain about his lineup because he still hadn't spoken to B.J. Crombeen, who has a foot injury and could be dealing with concussion-related symptoms after getting into a fight with Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo early in the first period Tuesday night.

Crombeen didn't return to the game and was not on the ice Thursday morning either, making it likely that he won't play against the Devils.

Taking into account Crombeen's likely absence, here is what the Lightning lineup could look like at the start of the game. However, bear in mind that Boucher has been known to play seven defensemen. If he chooses to, Brendan Mikkelson would likely get the call:

Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis

Cory Conacher - Vinny Lecavalier - Teddy Purcell

Benoit Pouliot - Tom Pyatt - Nate Thompson

Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Adam Hall - Dana Tyrell

Eric Brewer - Matt Carle

Sami Salo - Victor Hedman

Keith Aulie - Brian Lee

Anders Lindback

Mathieu Garon

Follow Dan Rosenon Twitter at: @drosennhl

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