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Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning center Thompson's style? Call it textbook

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 22, 2013 at 02:56 AM
TAMPA -

A hockey box score doesn't always measure a player's full contribution. Video clips, on the other hand, show everything.

They can reveal the true value of a player such as Lightning third-line center Nate Thompson, a battler who has become a favorite of Coach Guy Boucher.

Boucher points to Thompson's work so often in team meetings that other players have started calling him "Nate Boucher."

"They say that because I call him 'textbook,' " Boucher gushed last week. "You ask something and he gets it right away. Basically, he represents everything we're trying to do, offensively and defensively.

"This guy is getting better every second. I strongly believe those are the kind of guys that carry your culture."

A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Thompson, 26, was a sixth-round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2003. The Lightning claimed him off waivers from the Islanders last January, and he did so well on face-offs and penalty kills, the team's new management brought him back on a one-year deal.

During the Lightning's 7-2-1 start, Thompson was clicking on the fourth line with Dana Tyrell and Adam Hall, often working against the opponent's top line. He has moved up to the third line because of captain Vinny Lecavalier's hand injury, and, as he has continued to play well, his ice time has been growing.

Though he only has three goals and six assists, Thompson has been one of the Lightning's best on face-offs. He has earned plaudits for his forecheck, defensive awareness and nose for the net.

"I think he's just a very consistent player, very versatile," said Hall, a seven-year veteran of five NHL teams. "You can use him in a lot of different situations. Whether it's in face-offs or whatever, he works hard every game.

"He's doing things the way coaches want them done. A lot of times during our video clips and stuff, he'll show up just because he stays so consistent."

Assistant coach Wayne Fleming said there's more to Thompson's game than doing things right.

"His movement around the rink is very purposeful, very direct," he said. "He reads very well defensively. He's a hard player to play against, and he's resilient. He takes bangs and crashes and picks himself up and goes right back at it again."

Boucher, the Lightning's rookie head coach, is generally complimentary of his players. But he is also demanding, and his expectations allow for never taking a shift off.

Some players will respond to him better than others. Thompson seems to have found a home.

"I just think defensively, the way we play and (emphasizing) the small details, that's what I kind of pride my game on," Thompson said.

"And then offensively, not having to change my game at all. Still going forward, still driving the net, still shooting everything. I don't have to dipsy-doodle out there; that's not my game."

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