While the Tampa Bay Lightning were shutout, 3-0, in their latest game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team’s past two practices did not have a negative connotation.
“We just had to get rid of Pittsburgh,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “A lot of good things came out of that game, we just didn’t score.”
Opening their December slate with three games in five days the lengthy practices seemed to be used as a matter of repetition for what they would like to see on offense, not punishment, as the Bolts practiced driving pucks into the offensive zone and creating scoring chances.
“We had been getting some shots on goal the last few games,” Cooper said. “Our shots were in the low 20s against the Penguins and I think a big reason for that was we weren’t getting to the net enough.”
Joking that the long practices meant they were “apparently out of shape,” Valtteri Filppula acknowledged that Tampa Bay needs to spend more time in their opponent’s zone and take advantage of the power play too.
“I feel like we haven’t scored on the power play and that’s the main thing,” Filppula said. “We need to be able to score. The power play, as well as the penalty kill, are really important.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets 16 penalties in their last two contests, including 10 minutes shorthanded in Sunday’s game alone, would be a perfect starting point for the Lightning. In their past three games the Bolts have gone 1-for-11 on the man advantage and it now ranks 19th in the NHL with a 17-percent success rate.
STICKING TO THE PLAN
The strategy has been for the Bolts to be a better defense-oriented team in the 2013-14 campaign and for the most part, they have done just that.
An outbreak of scoring from the blue line recently has helped propel the team’s confidence in their two-way game. It also is a result of Tampa Bay’s forwards staying committed to a five-man defensive unit.
“We’re seeing responses from forwards on defense,” Andrej Sustr said. “Knowing they’re going to take care of the defensive side as well helps create opportunities for us to create offensive chances.”
With key injuries in the lineup and Steven Stamkos’ continued absence the Lightning have banned together on both ends of the ice.
“We have a lot of guys playing well right now,” Filppula said. “The more help we get from different guys, the better it is for us.”
Cooper added that if they want to be a part of the playoff hunt in the latter months of the season then they need to stick to what they have been taught, but to this point it’s been “so far, so good.”
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin was named to Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp Monday, he will head to Toronto for the camp in mid-December.
According to Cooper the Bolts are hopeful that Gudas (upper body) could return to the lineup by Saturday’s game versus the Winnipeg Jets.
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