By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 20, 2001
TAMPA -- The Lightning has every reason to be pleased with itself but not satisfied.
Tampa Bay went 2-2-1 on its 11-day trip to Canada, which ended with Monday's 4-3 victory at Montreal. But whether the team truly is improving will depend, coach John Tortorella said, on how it responds.
"We're happy with our road trip, but that's a small part of our schedule," Tortorella said. "For us to gain respect and compete at a higher level and stay at a higher level, it has to be done more consistently. That's a big flaw we have here. I'm anxious to see where our satisfaction level is."
During the trip, the Lightning lost to Ottawa, tied Vancouver and beat Calgary. It led Edmonton 1-0 but allowed two third-period goals in a 2-1 loss. Tampa Bay cannot afford even the tiniest breakdown, Tortorella said.
"It wasn't losing that single game, but how we lost it," he said. "We have to accept the fact that we have gotten better and that we are going to be involved in close games. We have to take that next step and find a way to win in those situations. At Edmonton, we found a way to lose."
Veteran left wing Dave Andreychuk said the long road trip, including hours spent on airplanes and going through baggage checks, served as a bonding experience. It also affirmed what most on the team knew.
"We realized we have to come and play every night and that we can win games, especially on the road," Andreychuk said.
"We're trying to get some consistency. We have to play the same way every night, whether we're on the road or at home."
SPREADING CHEER: The Lightning hosted a holiday party Wednesday at the Ice Palace for underprivileged families with a child battling cancer.
Each player was paired with a child from Camp Good Days-Special Times, the Children's Cancer Center or Tampa General Hospital. Players provided a present and ate dinner with the family.
"It's nice for all the guys to share a little time with the kids; make sure they have fun and get some presents for them," center Vinny Lecavalier said.
"The kids are happy when they get the presents, but they especially like spending time with the guys. They get all their stuff autographed, and they have a big smile on their face. And that's what's important."
HEALING TIME: Wings Fredrik Modin and Ben Clymer did not practice to allow their bumps and bruises to heal. Wing Martin St. Louis missed practice because of a cold. All will play Friday against the Blues. ... Center Brian Holzinger (rotator cuff tear) will be out at least another week.