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Lightning putting a priority on now
History reflects team's success in January.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published January 1, 2007
TAMPA - There's one word that has been thrown around most in the locker room in recent days as the Lightning enters the new year one game below .500.
Coach John Tortorella would like to see his team play with more desperation, especially as Tampa Bay 18-19-2 embarks on a four-game, seven-day trip in a pivotal opening month to the calendar year.
"If we don't have it now, we're never going to have it," forward Brad Richards said. "The urgency has to be up."
The Lightning has been here before. The past two seasons, strong January runs have set the stage for postseason berths.
"Every game is big for us right now," forward Ryan Craig said. "Everyone talks about the games in January and February that make or break your season, and we're no better example of that. We have to look at it as a positive and as a challenge."
Nine of the Lightning's 13 games this month are on the road, which might be a better situation for Tampa Bay given the fact that it has played poorly at the St. Pete Times Forum, going 10-11-1.
"Anytime you're struggling and you go on the road, it's always important to establish yourself as a hockey team and get your work ethic back and get your game back to being real simple," team captain Tim Taylor said. "That's why I think we've played better on the road. We've done that early on while at home we've played catchup, which is a totally different game."
The Lightning has just 38 points, third fewest in the Eastern Conference. But with the parity throughout the conference (take away first-place Buffalo and last-place Philadelphia and the other 13 teams are within 15 points of each other) Tampa Bay is just three points short of Boston, which sits in the No. 8 spot in the conference and would earn the final playoff spot if the season ended today.
"Right now we're not in the position to look at what's going to happen in another month," forward Vinny Prospal said. "We need to win now, just like everyone else; we need the big plays, we need the big saves. We can't wait and watch to see what's going to happen or wait to see where we're at when January comes to an end. We need the wins now."