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Yzerman: Bolts 'need better play from our whole team'

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com
NEW YORK -- The Tampa Bay Lightning bring a five-game losing streak into Thursday's game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The same team that took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals six-and-a-half months ago is now stuck in 13th place due to an outbreak of problems that got worse Thursday when Martin St. Louis left the ice bleeding after taking a Dominic Moore shot to his eye.

St. Louis, who was taken to the hospital for evaluation, will likely miss Thursday's game. It would have been his 500th consecutive game played.

The Lightning, though, have numerous other problems to deal with as well.

They're 28th in the League in goals against per game (3.22), 20th in goals for per game (2.56), and 22nd in power-play efficiency (14.9 percent). They've taken the lead into the first intermission only four times and are minus-13 in goal-differential (29-16) in the first period. They blew third-period leads in back-to-back games before losing to the Islanders, 5-1, on Tuesday.

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Not long after coach Guy Boucher put his team through an intense, teaching-filled morning skate Thursday, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman took time to talk about his team and its struggles with NHL.com. Yzerman, a finalist last season for the General Manager of the Year Award, is clearly disappointed, but he remains composed and appears willing to give the players a chance to turn things around.

Here is what he had to say:

NHL.com: What's your overview of what is going on with this team right now; why has it lost five in a row and why is the record what it is?

Yzerman: Well, it's a fine line between winning and losing and it's a difficult League to play in. We've played hard, but games that we won last year we're losing this year. The four previous games prior to the Islander game (5-1 loss Tuesday) we were either winning or tied in the third period, and we found different ways to lose. We need to be better as a team defensively. We need better goaltending. Our power play needs to be a little bit better. That's just the way it is.

NHL.com: Are the goaltending problems a byproduct of the way the guys are playing in front of the goalies, or is it just not good as a whole and it's a problem in its own right?

Yzerman: I don't know that you can point to … we need better play from our whole team. To single out our goaltending as the reason our record is what it is -- the fact is your power play can bail you out and better defensive play can bail you out. We need everybody to play better. We need better of this and better of that. In all departments, we need to be better. I'm not going to sit here and say it's our goaltender's fault -- it's not. We need them to be better and we need everybody to be better.

NHL.com: The defense has a couple of veteran guys on it and it was good last season, so why has it been, for lack of a better word, poor?

Yzerman: It's our team defense; it's not our group individually. You look around the League at some teams that are way up in the standings playing through injuries, they're finding ways to win. As a team, collectively, we need to be better defensively. Hey, things happen. You start to lose and guys try to do too much, running around to do other guys jobs. We just have to settle down and play better.

NHL.com: Has it surprised you that the team hasn't taken the jump based off what it did last season, or did the run the team went on last season make it look better than it actually was?

Yzerman: Nobody had any expectations last year. Things fell into place. We played well and in the playoffs we were able to figure out a way to win. We played Pittsburgh without [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin. We got better as the year went on, but we sputtered along in November last year and found ways to win games. I don't know that our team is any better or any worse than last year; the fact is we're not winning games and we have to figure out a way to win games.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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