Leave the rust to them
TAMPA — The Lightning ran a drill yesterday at the St. Pete Times Forum in which four of the five offensive players went to the front of the net. Players also engaged in two-on-two puck battles, and another drill involved a two-player race for a loose puck.
“You feel it, for sure, in your lungs,’’ Steven Stamkos said.
But beyond keeping players in shape during what will be a 10-day layoff before the start of the Eastern Conference finals, the drills were a reminder of how the Lightning must play against the Bruins — get bodies in front of Boston goalie Tim Thomas and gain control of the puck.
“They have such an outstanding goalie,’’ Sean Bergenheim said. “Hopefully we’re going to be there for the rebounds.
“Obviously with the battle drills and skating, you’re trying to get your game habits to win, especially against Boston,’’ Stamkos said. “They have a great goaltender and a great defense we have to penetrate. We’re going to have to find a way.’’
The trouble was, Dominic Moore said, players still are “pretty rusty.’’ Coach Guy Boucher agreed (“not sharp’’).
Part of that, Boucher said, is “in Tampa, it’s sunshine and there are palm trees. It feels like a vacation.’’
More to the point, he said, “You’ll never recreate game situations. You can do all the battling you want, all the skating you want. You’ll never get to the level of an NHL playoff game. So, the first period for us and for them is going to be a little shocker.’’
Feeling fine Simon Gagne, out since the opener of the second-round series against the Capitals after his head slammed off the ice, said he will not be tentative in Game 1.
“I was ready to come back against Washington,’’ he said. “I’ve felt good since it happened.’’
“We’ve been extremely careful about it,’’ Boucher said. “He’s the one who has been trying to push it because he’s feeling really, really good. I thought he was flying today.’’
Not so fine Boucher said defenseman Pavel Kubina (post-concussion symptoms) might play in the series, “but we won’t see him at the beginning.’’ . . . With defenseman Randy Jones (high ankle sprain) playing a combined 19 minutes 11 seconds over the last three games, Boucher acknowledged his spot in the lineup might be an issue. At the same time, Boucher added, “Right now, we have a winning formula. We don’t necessarily want to change that.’’