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Southeast: Tampa Bay thankful for Lecavalier

by Robert Picarello

Vincent Lecavalier has been nothing short of spectacular in the team's first 20 games, scoring a league-leading 34 points off 14 goals and 20 assists.
In a week where everyone around the United States was celebrating Thanksgiving, it's safe to say everyone in Tampa Bay was thankful Vincent Lecavalier was on their side.

Lecavalier has been nothing short of spectacular in the team's first 20 games, scoring a league-leading 34 points off 14 goals and 20 assists. In the last two weeks, Lecavalier was chosen as the NHL's First Star twice, scoring six goals and 10 assists in six games.

Last week, Lecavalier took home the honors with two goals and six assists in four games. This past week, the 27-year-old picked up the First Star nod by posting the same amount of points in only two games, leading the League in scoring with four goals and four assists.

"Once you start scoring, it seems like you can really see the net. But, you know, if you go three, four, five games, you get to squeezing your stick a little bit, obviously you see the goalie a lot bigger. But it kind of goes both ways," Lecavalier said. "Right now, my confidence, or our confidence (as a team), is pretty good. When I get in front of a goalie, it's all about confidence, I think. If you're calm and you don't squeeze your stick, good things will happen."

In the last few weeks, good things have been happening in bunches for the Tampa center. On Nov. 14, Lecavalier tied a career high with five points (three goals, two assists) in a 6-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. In that game, he also matched franchise records for points in a period (four) and single-game plus-minus (plus-5). Two nights later, Lecavalier picked up three points (one goal, two assists) in a 5-2 win over the Capitals, setting a franchise mark by tallying multiple points in seven-consecutive games. On Monday night in Atlanta, Lecavalier extended the streak to eight games when he netted a goal and an assist in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Thrashers, marking the longest such stretch in the NHL since Jaromir Jagr had 10 straight for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1995-96 season.

"It's not really something I think about,” Lecavalier said. “It's more I just play the game and I try to go game by game. I think before I used to say you always have objectives of what you want to accomplish. I used to go with really, like, 10-game segments or stuff like that. Really now I just go game by game. It's been going well."

Which is something everyone in Tampa Bay is thankful.

Who's hot -- Atlanta's dynamic duo of Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa have combined for 31 points in the team's last eight games, posting 17 goals and 13 assists during the stretch. Kovalchuk has torched the opposition for 11 goals and six assists during the run, while Hossa has netted seven goals and seven assists. … Florida center Stephen Weiss has points in four of his last five games, including an assist in the Panthers' 4-3 win over Washington on Monday. … Washington's Alexander Ovechkin has six points in his last five games, including goals in four straight, from Nov. 8-16. … Coming into the week, Carolina's Cam Ward had won three of his last four starts, turning aside 27 or more shots in each victory.

Southeast quotes -- "It's not a lot of fun right now. Guys were just being a little too tight. We just need to relax and (coach) Glen (Hanlon) stressed that after the second period. Guys need to lighten up, loosen up – it's a hockey game – and when we did that you saw how we played in the third."

-- Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig said after a Caps rally fell one-goal short on Monday night against the Panthers.

"The way this sport is, you're happy if you win, and if you lose, you're miserable."

-- Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour said after the Hurricanes defeated the Florida Panthers 2-1 Saturday night in Raleigh.

A look ahead --Friday, Nov. 23, the Thrashers host the Devils, the Capitals are in Philadelphia, the Panthers are home against the Rangers and the Lightning travel to Carolina. … Saturday, Nov. 24, the 'Canes are in Washington, the Thrashers visit Pittsburgh and the Devils travel to Tampa Bay. … Monday, Nov. 26, the Capitals host to the Sabres.

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