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Stamkos already thriving under new coach Tocchet

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Only a week into his tenure as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Rick Tocchet is taking a much different approach in the development of prized rookie Steven Stamkos than the fired Barry Melrose did.

Stamkos, the 18-year-old forward taken No. 1 overall by the Lightning in this year's draft, received more playing time in each of his first two games under Tocchet than in any he played while Melrose was the coach.

"Toc has just been great with me, giving me an opportunity out there," Stamkos said. "You definitely feel like you're in the game (playing more minutes)."

Last Sunday, in Tocchet's debut after being promoted from assistant to interim head coach, Stamkos played 15 minutes, 10 seconds. Two nights later against Florida, Stamkos had 17:55 of ice time.

Under Melrose, Stamkos had a high of 14:53 on the ice. That came in the second game of the season, Oct. 5 against the Rangers in the Czech Republic.

Melrose was fired after going 5-7-4 in his first season as Lightning coach. He held Stamkos under 10 minutes of ice time in five games - including 9:51 on Nov. 13 against Detroit in the final game with Melrose behind the bench. His overall low was 6:05 versus Carolina on Oct. 11.

"We've got to figure a way to get Steve Stamkos involved, and see if he can play at this level," said Tocchet, an NHL head coach for the first time. "He's going to get his chance. We're going to get him out there in the right situations. He's a young kid. Everybody's rooting for the kid. He's a great kid."

Stamkos practiced Monday on a line with top Tampa Bay forwards Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, and played with them at times Tuesday against Florida. Stamkos earned an assist, recorded nine shots and won 6 of 10 faceoffs.

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ROY'S RETURN: Anyone who saw Patrick Roy's angry exit from the Montreal Canadiens bench back on Dec. 2, 1995, probably never expected that the Hall of Fame goalie would receive the honor of having his number retired by the most storied team in NHL history.

Yet, that is exactly what this weekend was all about as the proud franchise continued to celebrate its centennial season. The Canadiens brought Roy back to Montreal to raise his famous No. 33 to the rafters of the Bell Centre.

"Well, you have no control on if they will retire my jersey or not, but I surely hoped that that would happen one day," Roy said. "I knew they had a lot of guys to do before me."

Roy allowed nine goals on 26 shots in Montreal's 11-1 home loss to Detroit nearly 13 years ago. He was removed from the game during the second period by coach Mario Tremblay and then told Canadiens president Ronald Corey that it would be his last game in Montreal. Roy felt Tremblay left him in the game to be humiliated.

Roy, a two-time champion with the Canadiens, was traded to Colorado three days later.

"You always have some regrets. I mean, nobody's perfect," Roy said this week. "The good thing about what's going to happen on Saturday is we're going to talk more about those years like '86 or '89 or '93. I thought we had great runs in Montreal. I think we're finally going to put away that December 2nd of '95.

"That's one game. I mean, it's funny, because when you get to the NHL they say to you, 'One game does not make a career.' But one game made pretty much my career in Montreal. But I feel that that was not the case. I had so many good years and we had so many good teams."

Roy, whose number was also retired by the Colorado Avalanche in 2003 shortly after his career ended, is the sixth NHL player to receive that honor from two teams.

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LATE-GAME DRAMA: Three games were tied by last-minute goals last Saturday night, only the second time that has happened in 25 years.

Reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin got the Washington Capitals even with less than a second to go in regulation at New Jersey, Markus Naslund lifted the New York Rangers into a tie against Boston with 52.9 seconds left, and Darcy Tucker forced overtime for the Colorado Avalanche with 10.7 seconds remaining at Edmonton.

All three games were decided in shootouts, and only the Capitals failed to come away with two points after the late-game heroics.

"I thought we deserved a couple of breaks, but we didn't get them," Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

The only other time in the past 25 years that there was such late-game drama was last March 28 when Joe Sakic tied the game for Colorado against Edmonton with 6 seconds left, and Mike Knuble got the Philadelphia Flyers even with 56 seconds to go. Both Colorado and Philadelphia ended up with wins.

Two other games on Saturday were settled with go-ahead goals in the final moments of the third period. Jordan Staal netted the winning goal with 4:33 left in regulation of Pittsburgh's 5-2 against the Buffalo Sabres. J.P. Dumont scored with 2:28 to go, helping Nashville to a 3-1 win over Los Angeles.

Through last weekend, and 256 games this season, 12 tying goals were scored in the final minute of regulation. Last season at this time, only six games were tied in the last 60 seconds. Seven games were won by goals in the last two minutes of regulation, and 16 others were tied in the finals two minutes.

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OLD HOME WEEK: Tom Renney was happy to see the Vancouver Canucks come to Madison Square Garden, but didn't get the result he hoped for against the team that gave him his NHL coaching break.

The Canucks took it to the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers and skated off with a 6-3 victory Wednesday night.

Renney, in his fourth full season as head coach of the Rangers, spent parts of two seasons behind the Canucks bench. He went 35-40-7 in the 1996-97 campaign and was gone after a 4-13-2 start the following season, shortly after Mark Messier arrived in Vancouver as captain.

"You can't help but have a special place in your heart for places like that," said Renney, a native of Cranbrook, British Columbia. "It's my home province and I was given the opportunity to coach in the NHL there. I still very much appreciate that.

"I grew up from the experience to say the least. Whether they want it or not, the Vancouver Canucks have some ownership on whatever I am as a coach and I appreciate that."

The Canucks and Rangers haven't played often in recent years, but with the change in the NHL schedule this season, every team will face the other 29 at least once a season.

Eastern Conference teams enjoyed a very friendly travel schedule that sometimes didn't take them out of the Eastern time zone more than a handful of times a season. That has now changed, to some extent.

"I think it's important for the league. I really do because that's who we're here to serve, the fan," Renney said. "To sell the product and make it something that people can enjoy for years to come, I think it's really important that we do this. From a selfish perspective, I would love to play in our division a couple of more times and be at home it bed by 1:30 and get up the next morning for practice."

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