Lightning head coach Jon Cooper is working to help Steven Stamkos improve on shootouts.
By ERIN BROWNFS Florida
Steven Stamkos is one of the most the league's most dangerous goal scorers. When it comes to the shootout, though, not so much.
That may be changing.
Stamkos scored the sixth shootout goal of his career on Oct. 27 in a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers. He did so in highlight-reel fashion, with several dekes to freeze Florida's Jacob Markstrom before easily shifting the puck into a relatively open net.
The goal gave Tampa Bay the victory and floored coach Jon Cooper in the process.
"That was quite a move. Wow," Cooper said. "When I was growing up, I just don't remember those moves. Where do they come from?"
For a player whose shootout moves in the Ontario Hockey League became
a YouTube sensation, it is hard to fathom the former 60-goal scorer is notoriously bad in one-on-one sessions.
Stamkos is now just 6-for-28 all-time in the shootout and 1-for-3 on penalty shots.
But Cooper seems to have figured out how to get one of the league's most prolific scorers to produce in high-pressure situations.
The first element is practice. Tampa Bay dedicates a portion of its practice for players to fine-tune shootout moves. Stamkos welcomes the frequent session.
"It's something I've struggled with in the past," Stamkos said. "Practice does help, just trying to get some moves coming in. It was nice to see one go in, and even nicer to help the team win."
The second trick up Cooper's sleve is not calling on Stamkos until a shootout goes to sudden-death.
"I just decided he's notoriously not good if he's out there on the first three," Cooper said. "I think he knows what to do. Sometimes you take a little pressure off the guy because he doesn't need to go early, and guys react different ways."
In this case, Stamkos' response was as positive as one can expect.
In Goudas standing
Defenseman Radko Gudas probably wishes he had shown a little restraint before getting tossed in Tampa Bay's win over Florida on Oct. 27. And he's probably thankful the NHL actually showed some the following day.
The NHL recinded the game misconduct penalty Gudas received after slashing his stick on the Panthers bench.
"I respect the call [referee Tim Peel] made," Cooper said. "I understand, partially, why he made it, but I think the league got it right. ... The 24-hour rule. Sleep on it and I think everyone got it right in the end."
Not having the game misconduct on his record is significant in a couple ways. For one, Gudas avoids the automatic $200 fine. Additionally, if he had received two additional game misconducts during the course of the season, the defenseman would have been suspended one game.
For a player who is crucial to Tampa Bay's blueline but ranks second the NHL with 55 penalty minutes, that has to be a relief.
On the farm
Prospect Nikita Kucherov is making many a general manager second-guess letting the Russian drop to No. 58 in the 2011 NHL Draft.
The winger averaged 1.32 points per game in his three-year career in the Russian junior league. When he transitioned to Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior League, that number jumped to 1.96 points per game.
He's continuing the torrid pace in his first pro season with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League. In eight games, the rookie ranks second in league scoring with eight goals and seven assists.
"I know I'm young and need to work," Kucherov told the Post-Standard in Syracuse. "I'll just wait for the call up. It will be this year, two years. I don't know how long it takes."
If he continues to post an average of close to two points per game, Kucherov may not have to wait much longer.
-- Tampa Bay recalled Brett Connolly on Thursday. The 21-year-old has one assist in six games with Syracuse. He skated for the
Lightning in their Oct. 17 contest against the Minnesota Wild, posting two penalty minutes.
Lightning to compete in Movember
Facial hair in the NHL usually becomes trendy in April, but expect to see some fuzzy players over the next month as well.
Ryan Malone, Nate Thompson and Teddy Purcell will be taking part in Movember, a global effort to bring awareness men's cancers. The trio will grow out moustaches during the month November and collect donations for their respective charities.
The Lightning are encouraging fans to
join in the fun as well, with the top-25 Team Lightning fundraisers winning a pair of tickets to the team's Nov. 29 game vs. the Pengiuns and a player meet-and-greet session afterward. Fans actually growing moustaches for Movember will also have the opportunity win season tickets for all remaining home games, as voted on through the team's social media channels.
The 8-4 Lightning wrap up a busy week with back-to-back games beginning Friday with a visit to the Carolina Hurricanes, followed by a home contest against the St. Louis Blues. Tampa Bay is back in action Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers. The Lightning will then head out on a three-game road trip starting in Detroit next Saturday.