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Tantrum a strike against complacency

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2003

TAMPA -- Even if you knew nothing about hockey, you could figure out Lightning coach John Tortorella was not happy.

About 15 minutes into Wednesday's morning skate, Tortorella called his players together and delivered an expletive-heavy tirade. For emphasis, he stormed off the ice.

"Just a little kick in the butt," center Tim Taylor said.

A sloppy workout was the catalyst, but there was a larger point to be made. Tortorella did not want the team, which scored a huge victory Monday over the Senators, to fall into the same trap it did two weeks ago after beating the Red Wings.

The Lightning wasted those two points when it lost 3-2 in overtime in its next game against Atlanta. Montreal offered similar dangers, but lessons apparently were learned as Tampa Bay earned a competitive 2-2 tie.

"We're still a team learning how to win consistently," Tortorella said. "That's what turns a 65-, 70-point team into a 90-point team, knowing how to prepare each night throughout the season and give whatever you have mentally. It may not be 100 percent all the time but you have to give 100 percent of what you have. I still think we're in a deep process as far as understanding that and it scares the hell out of me."

"He told us it's not acceptable for us to come out the day of the game and not be prepared," defenseman Brad Lukowich said. "He sent a message that it's not acceptable to him and not acceptable to the other guys on the team. Every guy gives himself a gut check real quick, and now it's there."

LESS PRACTICE: Tortorella said he will hold fewer practices and more optional skates and video work. Practices will be called if players need to refocus on the system, but keeping fresh legs is just as important.

"If you lose it physically, mentally you're not able to do anything," he said. "As bad as you want to get on the ice and try to correct things, sometimes you can do it with video and you may have them mentally sharp."

DINGER: Chris Dingman got his first assist of the season against the Senators. But the value of the left wing, who has two goals, is not measured by points. He is strong on the puck, a physical presence with a team-high 68 penalty minutes and good defensively. He is minus-3 on checking lines that score little.

"He's a tryer," Tortorella said. "And when you get in this game here, the trying outweighs a lot of things as far as talent level."

ODDS AND ENDS: F Vinny Prospal sat out the first game of his two-game suspension for a cross-checking incident against the Senators. ... D Darren Rumble was recalled from AHL Springfield to replace the injured Stan Neckar (groin). ... RW Ben Clymer (groin) was placed on injured reserve.

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