TAMPA — With the first month of the season nearly complete, the Tampa Bay Lightning entered Saturday averaging just 25.8 shots per game, second-lowest in the league.
This despite the fact Tampa Bay averaged 3.4 goals per game, third in the league heading into the weekend.
While Lightning head coach Jon Cooper certainly likes the team’s shooting percentage to this point, getting more shots on goal is an area he wants improved upon moving forward.
“Shooting the puck has got to be a little bit more of a priority and I know that sounds probably the most redundant thing that I’ve been saying all year,’’ said Cooper, whose team responded with 39 on Saturday night. “But we have to be better at that. Our shots on goal on the power play and five on five are not nearly where I think they should be. Our goals for are fine, but we are getting them on minimal shots. I just think the more you shoot, the more chances pucks have to go in the net.’’
Part of that has come from players looking for the pretty play instead of the better play.
“Sometimes you have to be selfish and I think our guys can be too unselfish. They would rather tic-tac-toe it and set up their buddy the whole time,’’ Cooper said. “Whereas sometimes you have to make the selfish act and shoot yourself.’’
How does Cooper break that habit?
“Aside from walk around with them for 24 hours telling them ‘shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot,’ I don’t know what else to do,’’ he joked. “You just have to keep hammering it in their head.’’
Fine to laugh now
The own goal in the final two minutes of Thursday’s game against Chicago no doubt will be shown more times than anybody with the team would like to see, though the Lightning were able to put the gaffe behind them with the overtime victory.
But the backpass from Matt Carle at center ice to Radko Gudas that hit a rough patch of ice, hit the heel of his stick and deflected off Gudas’ skate and past G Ben Bishop was not easy to deal with at the moment.
“I wanted to throw up when I saw the puck go in,’’ Carle said. “That was real sickening but it’s just one of those things (and) we were able to end up winning the game so we are able to laugh about.’’
When Carle sent the pass back into his own zone, it was such an innocent play that the thought of what ended up being the end result never entered Carle’s thought process.
“I think I made a play earlier in the game back to Bishop when we were on the power play and ended up passing the puck back to him and I was actually more worried about that,’’ Carle said. “It never even crossed my mind (the play to Gudas) was going to go in the net or that it even had a chance. I have the puck in the neutral zone and I see they are changing so I didn’t want to just turn around and dump the puck and just give it back to them. I was hoping to lag a few seconds off the clock there and it goes in the net. So it’s a weird, wacky play.’’
After sitting out for three weeks, defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio — who had each played only one game this season — suited up Saturday as Cooper opted to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the first time this season. D Andrej Sustr and LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie were scratched.
Barberio had not played since opening night (Oct. 3 in Boston) and Aulie had sat out the past six games.
“We’ve had some guys sitting out and we have games coming up, so we have to get these guys in and get them some reps because our schedule tightens up so much in November,’’ Cooper said.
Nuts and Bolts
Buffalo has allowed the first goal in 12 of 13 games this season. ... The Sabres have been outscored 16-1 in the first period this season. ... C Tyler Johnson’s third goal of the season matched his total from last year. ... RW Marty St. Louis needs 11 points to tie Lightning assistant coach Steve Thomas for 92nd on the all-time scoring list. ... The Sabres played without RW Patrick Kaleta and LW John Scott, who are each out due to suspension.