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Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning open five-game homestand vs. Senators

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM
TAMPA -

The big-picture view shows Tampa Bay starting a five-game homestand today.

In a shortened season, however, there is no time to take that sort of a big-picture view.

Sure, in looking at the five games, starting with Ottawa tonight, it's easy to see this season-long stretch on home ice as a golden opportunity. Added to their two wins in the opening three games, a strong homestand could go a long way toward setting up the Lightning for success, particularly with Philadelphia, Florida, Winnipeg and the New York Rangers also coming to town during a nine-day span.

"We took the second half of that back-to-back (Tuesday in Carolina), and it was huge," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "Now we've got to take advantage of these five games here, some pretty tough teams, but let's take advantage of this home stretch, for sure."

For a team with a 50-25-7 home record under coach Guy Boucher, five consecutive games at home would seem to be an advantage. But Tampa Bay would rather put on blinders and zero in on the first foe.

"We always have success at home," right wing Teddy Purcell said. "We always like playing here. For whatever reason, it's easy to get jacked up in front of our fans. But a short season, you don't want to look too far ahead. You don't want to get too excited, because every game is so important.

"We know we have a five-game homestand that we have to take advantage of, but our focus is on Ottawa right now.''

At various times during the season, Boucher likes to break down the schedule into five-game segments — to take bigger elements and make them seem smaller. That's not the case now, however, because of the uniqueness of playing a 48-game schedule instead of a full 82-game season.

Everything is already broken down into small segments. That's why the team is taking this stretch one game at a time.

"It's not a five-game homestand, because if you look at that you fall into a little bit of a comfort zone; you feel good because you're home,'' Boucher said. "But every game is going to be a war.

"(Today) it's the first war, it's the first 20 minutes that we are worried about. The rest we don't think of, the rest we have to take care of tomorrow."

After opening the season with three games in four days, the team took Wednesday off. Players returned to the ice Thursday for their first full practice in nearly a week. The task of staying focused on the next game on the schedule, instead of the next five, began in the first morning meeting.

"We've already talked about that as a team, and that's one of those things that we want out of our minds," center Adam Hall said. "We want to stay as focused as possible just on this next game and what we need to do.

"We know it's early in the season and we are still working to come together and perfect the way we play as a team and our chemistry. So, we're only focusing on what we're doing for this next game. That is where our minds are at right now.''

As expected, the first three games were a mish-mash of mistakes and successes. What went well in the first game fell apart in the second, only to be corrected for the third. With only six days of training camp, the coaching staff did not focus much on system work.

Those elements will be worked in over time, which is why the focus has to be so narrow, particularly on the team's biggest area of weakness last season — defense.

"We need a defensive transformation, and that's a whole-team thing,'' Boucher said. "We have new players, that's fine. So, we are better because of the new players we've got, but as a whole-team mentality and the philosophy that we want to progress with now, it's clear it's got to be our defense first.''

That starts tonight.

LIGHTNING VS. SENATORS

WHERE: The Forum, Tampa

WHEN: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Sun Sports/970 AM

INJURIES: Lightning — D Mattias Ohlund (knee), out. Senators — D Jared Cowen (hip), D Mike Lundin (finger), out.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Tampa Bay is 25-42-7

NEED TO KNOW: The Lightning were 0-4 against Ottawa last season, outscored 19-6. …Ottawa, which played at Florida on Thursday night, was 9-5-3 in the second half of back-to-back games last season. …Of Tampa Bay's 13 goals in the opening three games, eight came in the third period. …G Anders Lindback is scheduled to start, head coach Guy Boucher said. …The Senators allowed one goal in their opening two games. …A pregame ceremony will honor C Vinny Lecavalier for playing in his 1,000th career game. Lecavalier, who reached the milestone on Monday, will receive an engraved silver stick from the league and gifts from his teammates and the team. …As of Friday afternoon, tickets were still available, but team officials expect a sellout.


eerlendsson@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7835 Twitter: @erlendssonTBO

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