Lecavalier in rare slump

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
Published January 16, 2008

TAMPA -- Vinny Lecavalier is in his first slump of the season.

The Lightning star on Tuesday was held without a point for a third straight game, his longest drought since a four-game stretch Nov. 22-27, 2005.

He also hasn't scored in four games and is minus-2.

"It's been a struggle to produce and get the puck in the net," Lecavalier said.

He still is tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk for the league points lead with 63 on 28 goals and 35 points. But with Tampa Bay so dependent on his line's production, the last thing it needs is for it to falter.

Linemates Marty St. Louis and Vinny Prospal also have hit mini skids as neither has scored in three games.

"We have to start from playing simple," Lecavalier said. "Attack and play with desperation, make your own bounces."

SYSTEMS CHECK: How are the defensemen coping with the altered system? Pretty well if you ask them, even though the modifications inhibit pinching through the neutral zone.

"The way we're doing it, you can still pinch," Shane O'Brien said. "They have no problem with us jumping into an odd-man rush. We're just eliminating the pinches in the neutral zone where a little chip or a bad bounce and it's by you and it's a two-on-one."

The change from Tampa Bay's long-established pressure system simplified things for a relatively young and inexperienced defense and gives players more time to read and recognize opposition rushes.

It seems to have worked as the Lightning greatly reduced odd-man situations against. Even in Tuesday's 3-0 loss, it was not as if the Avalanche stormed the net.

"We don't want to turn them into robots," coach John Tortorella said. "It still comes down to the player making a split-second read constantly throughout the game. It's not like we're going to back off into our end zone."

LUNDIN A STAR: Defenseman Mike Lundin was one of 16 players the league selected for the YoungStars Game Jan. 26 in Atlanta.

Lundin, 23, said he never expected the honor.

"I'm not that young, first of all," he said.

But he had five assists and was plus-1 in 45 games entering Tuesday and averaged 14:59 of ice time. Not bad for someone slated to start the season with ECHL Mississippi.

EGENER ODYSSEY: Mike Egener was sent from AHL Norfolk to Mississippi for a two-week conditioning assignment.

Egener returned to the lineup Friday after missing 33 games with a separated shoulder and an injured groin.

MINOR TRADE: In an effort to generate more offense at Norfolk, defenseman Dan Jancevski was sent to the Stars for forward Junior Lessard. Wing Marek Kvapil also was promoted from Mississippi. Lessard, 27, had 10 goals, 21 points in 36 games for AHL Iowa.

The Admirals (11-25-4) have been starved for offense with Kyle Wanvig, Mathieu Darche and Craig MacDonald with the big club. Said Norfolk general manager Claude Loiselle, "We had to make a move."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.