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St. Louis seeks cure for scoring slump

The Lightning wing's production has dropped since the All-Star Game.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 25, 2003

TAMPA -- Martin St. Louis has been a little quieter around the house lately, a little more subdued.

The Lightning right wing does not like bringing his job home, but he is slumping badly. And with Tampa Bay fighting for its first playoff berth since 1996, it could not be happening at a worse time.

How can he not think about it?

"I've been a little bit miserable for sure," St. Louis said Monday. "The way I play definitely dictates, for me, anyway, a lot of things in my life. I expect a lot of myself, and if I don't perform the way I know I can, I'm disappointed."

St. Louis leads the team with 28 goals and is tied for second with 56 points. But he has one goal and three assists in 10 games since playing in the All-Star Game, and in his past six games, he has 10 shots.

The problem is as nebulous as it is frustrating.

Though St. Louis was held out of one practice last week to rest what was called various bumps and bruises, he insists he is not injured. His game, he said, simply lacks energy.

"I have to go back to that, to be energized and be a spark plug," he said. "I haven't been a spark plug, really. Sometimes, the mind wants to and the body is not responding."

"You saw him when he was on fire," linemate Brad Richards said. "He was like a little water bug out there. He's just not doing that."

St. Louis said he is watching more carefully what he eats and trying to catch a few extra Z's.

He watches video daily, comparing how he is playing now with how he played while earning his first All-Star selection. When he finishes watching at the St. Pete Times Forum, he takes more video home.

St. Louis is not the only Lightning player struggling. Vinny Lecavalier has one goal in his past 13 games, and Dave Andreychuk has three in 20.

In fact, Tampa Bay had such difficultly converting scoring chances the past two games, coach John Tortorella ran tip drills during Monday's practice.

But St. Louis, 27, was the team's most dynamic offensive forward leading to the All-Star Game. And while Lecavalier and Andreychuk have generated scoring chances (Lecavalier had eight shots Friday against the Hurricanes), St. Louis has been, for the most part, starved of those as well.

"I think I'm thinking too much," St. Louis said. "I'm not making the play that I should make sometimes. I'm not trying to make that play. It's almost as if ... I don't know. I'm trying so hard to be on top of my game, I think that's probably why I'm not, instead of letting it happen."

"We have to be patient," Tortorella said. "You can't just wave a magic wand and say, "Marty, you are better, and you're going to start scoring again.' He's going to work his way through it, but he has to work it in the right way."

Tortorella and St. Louis said that means playing better away from the puck. That means playing better defense, which demands playing with energy.

That is why Tortorella said he considered moving St. Louis to a more defensive third line. He decided to keep him with Richards and left wing Fredrik Modin.

"He's a confidence guy. He thinks about the game so much. We always have to backtrack him a little bit and have him not read between the lines and not read so much into things," Tortorella said. "If he simplifies things and is committed away from the puck, things are going to happen."

Richards said he went through similar circumstances at the beginning of the season and has tried to encourage St. Louis by sharing his experience.

"He's still a big part of this," Richards said. "He's just got to realize the reason he has 28 goals is hustle. The same thing with me, and then one day, boom."

"I don't know if I'm trying too hard or trying too much," St. Louis said. "I'm just not being the player I can be right now. There are 20 games left, and we're in a decent spot right now. But obviously, you want to go further than that."

You want to make some noise.

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