By KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 1, 2001
TAMPA -- When Martin St. Louis signed this season, he knew he would have to gain his coach's confidence.
"It didn't happen right away," the right wing, 25, said. "But once I got the opportunity to show them I could really do well, I think I made the best of it.
"Now I'm confident, riding high, and I just want to keep the ball rolling. I want to make stuff happen every game."
St. Louis had four goals and 16 assists in 69 games with Calgary. Before Sunday's game against Toronto at the Ice Palace, he had six goals and 10 assists in 32 games this season in a more offensive role.
"Every time that you think you should push him down to the fourth line, he keeps saying, 'No way, I'm going up to the first line,' " coach Steve Ludzik said. "You want a guy doing that. He's playing with a lot of grit."
On the first line, St. Louis has been one of the Lightning's most productive forwards, entering the game with three points (1 goal, 2 assists, 8 shots) in his previous two games.
"I played 52 games last year defensive-minded, so I think I've got good awareness on defense," he said. "But I know that I've got the offensive skills to make stuff happen with my speed. I'm a more complete player now than I ever was."
READY TO BUST OUT: Since scoring his third goal of the season Dec. 11, right wing Alexander Kharitonov had gone scoreless in eight games before Sunday.
He was getting chances, however, with 13 shots in that span.
"I'd like to see him blossom into a (Bruins forward Sergei) Samsonov player," Ludzik said. "They're roughly the same size, and I think that can happen. I would like to see him get around the 15, 16 goal mark if he can. That would mean he'd have to have a big second half."
INJURIES: Defenseman Pavel Kubina missed his second straight game with a cut left index finger. Head medical trainer Dave Boyer said Kubina is questionable to make the upcoming four-game road trip.
Defenseman Craig Millar will have X-rays taken of his broken left kneecap Tuesday. Right wing Stan Drulia (back strain) did not dress but was expected to make the trip.
ODDS AND ENDS: In the first five games of the six-game homestand, goaltenders Dan Cloutier and Kevin Weekes allowed 11 goals on 117 shots. ... Toronto center Darcy Tucker played his first game at the Ice Palace since being traded in February for Mike Johnson and two draft picks. ... Defenseman Kristian Kudroc was reassigned to the IHL's Detroit Vipers. ... Right wing Kaspars Astashenko was a healthy scratch.