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Tortorella vows to change power play's power dive

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


BRANDON -- Anyone who takes a shift on the Lightning power play is officially on notice. Play hard or you may not play at all, even if your name is Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards or Fredrik Modin.

Coach John Tortorella said he is fed up with the ineptitude of the power play, which is next-to-last in the league with an 11.9 percent efficiency.

Losing individual battles for the puck along the boards and in the corners, not reaching rebounds and failing to even set up in the offensive zone, not uncommon with the Lightning, will now have major consequences.

Tortorella said after Thursday's practice at the Ice Palace that, from now on, "Whoever we feel as coaches is willing to pay the price, that's who will be out there."

In other words, players performing well on a given night will get more time on the power play. He's not kidding, either. Lecavalier lost some ice time Tuesday against the Blues and players such as Matthew Barnaby, Ryan Johnson and Nils Ekman picked up the slack.

The power play still went 0-for-9, but Tortorella wants to make a point that playing with the man advantage does not mean playing with less intensity.

"A power play is not X's and O's," he said. "It's your willingness to win those battles and willingness to go after the puck on a rebound or a shot that's wide. You don't need a big team, it's wanting to do it."

Like the Blues.

"Everybody does that on their team. That's why they win a lot of games," Tortorella said. "The power play is the biggest weakness on our team."

After 25 power-play goals in its first 25 games, the team has 13 in its past 36.

"It's the ugly and big part of hockey," Tortorella said of the individual battles for the puck. "It's a willingness to be there and wanting to do it."

Left wing Todd Warriner said rewarding power-play time to those who work hard is a good plan.

"It's good when coaches recognize who plays well on a given night," he said. "It puts pressure on guys to show early they are ready and can command ice time. That's good competition."

CAN WARRINER RALLY?: Warriner may have saved his own playing time with his two-goal effort against St. Louis.

The left wing, who has been a huge disappointment this season, had three goals in his 31 previous games and was dangerously close to being benched. But the pairing with Lecavalier and Barnaby created a spark.

"I didn't think I played exceptionally," said Warriner, who has nine goals. "I just put the puck on net and it went in."

Warriner is by no means out of the woods.

"He's got to sustain it," Tortorella said. "We'll see this weekend."

ANOTHER PROJECT: Talk about a drought and a disappointment. Right wing Mike Johnson has 10 goals but just one in his past 32 games. The Lightning was hoping for 30 from one of its smartest players.

"I just don't know," Tortorella said. "I don't have the answer."

FIGHT AGAINST CANCER: The Lightning announced that its charity golf outing Wednesday at Saddlebrook Resort raised $96,000 for the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center.

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