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Usually, the patience of Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella wears thin first when his team is slumping.
Instead, general manager Jay Feaster is threatening changes if the Lightning cannot get untracked soon as they head into Saturday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Feaster has watched the Lightning (14-16-2) lose three straight games and go 1-6-1 in their last eight to fall into fourth place in the Southeast Division, 12 points behind front-running Atlanta. After being able to retain his core stars of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards from Tampa's 2004 Stanley Cup-winning team, Feaster has grown tired of watching the role players struggle the past two seasons since the lockout.
"We're serious about it," Feaster told The Canadian Press on Friday. "Let's face it, I can't have a $44-million payroll and be a sub-.500 team."
Feaster absolved the star trio and Tortorella from responsibility for the team's struggles, but did admit he has been frustrated with the inconsistency of goaltender Marc Denis, the team's top acquisition in the offseason in a trade that sent Fredrik Modin and Fredrik Norrena to Columbus.
"It is disheartening from the standpoint that, at the start of the season, I thought Marc was really solid," said Feaster. "Marc gave us a chance every night to win and we weren't scoring many goals."
"I go back to a game against Atlanta where they beat us 1-0. But now that we are scoring goals and we have two of the top scoring forwards in the NHL, now Marc's game isn't where it had been. So we need him to get back in form, there's no question."
Tampa outshot Montreal 43-20 on Thursday, but Denis allowed two third-period goals as the Canadiens rallied for a 4-2 victory. This came on the heels of a 5-3 loss Tuesday at Toronto in which backup netminder Johan Holmqvist allowed four consecutive goals in an 18-minute span bridging the second and third periods.
Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards have combined for 50 of Tampa's 103 goals, including 16 of the team's 25 during its eight-game slump.
The Hurricanes (15-14-4) enter this game struggling even more than Tampa Bay, getting outscored 19-9 during a five-game losing streak. After a winless four-game road trip that saw Carolina get just one point, the woes continued Friday with a 4-3 defeat to Toronto.
"When you haven't won, you've got to dig yourself out of it," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "Nobody's going to feel sorry for you. Nobody's going to have any sympathy for you throughout the league. You've got to work harder, and execute better, be a little more disciplined, play a little bit tougher."
A lack of discipline has plagued Carolina of late. The Hurricanes have allowed nine power-play goals in 21 opportunities over the last three games, in stark contrast to their previous four games in which they killed off all 15 short-handed situations.
Cory Stillman and Eric Staal each had two assists Friday, and Stillman has three in two games after missing the first 31 due to a shoulder injury. Staal has four assists in his last three games but no goals in his last five.
The 22-year-old Staal has three goals and three assists in three games against the Lightning this season, leading the Hurricanes to two wins. He had two power-play goals in a 6-4 victory over Tampa Bay on Oct. 28.