Tampa Bay Lightning
Bolts going forward without looking back
NEWARK, N.J. - No disruptions, no distractions and no looking back. That was the attitude of the Lightning on Tuesday as the team returned to practice at the Prudential Center one day after the NHL trade deadline. Without any deals pulled off by General Manager Steve Yzerman, and no new players entering or leaving the locker room, Tampa Bay moves forward with the same group of players in place following Sunday's victory at Madison Square Garden. With 20 games left in the regular season, including tonight's against New Jersey at the Prudential Center, the Lightning remain in first place in the Southeast Division. And as with the theme of the season, everybody appears to be just fine with forging forward with the same group that has guided the Lightning to the top of the division and has it primed for its first playoff appearance in four years."I think everybody here is happy with the way things are going ... and we believe in what we can do,'' captain Vinny Lecavalier said. One of the main factors in Yzerman keeping the status quo revolves around the chemistry that has developed in the locker room. But what exactly does that mean? How do a group of players forge a bond? It's more than just players hanging out at a team dinner together or having a few drinks after a game. Players, for the most part, can always get along in the locker room, particularly in hockey circles. To forge the type of team unity the Lightning appear to have this season goes much deeper than guys holding a fondness for each other. "It's a willingness to be on the same page, which is something that is very difficult to get,'' Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "You talk about it, and everybody says it, but you rarely get that. You always get guys on their own agenda, and we don't. So that's a special thing that we have and we want to hold on to it very dearly, and the players know that. Those are all unselfish guys in there and that's very special, so if you bring in somebody that is not like that, you can destroy everything. So I think the players will be the first ones to protect that culture and that chemistry.'' Early in the season, there were signs of things coming together, and much quicker than anticipated. But it wasn't until just before Christmas when it all started to come together in Boucher's eyes as the Lightning found a way to push to the top of the Southeast Division, which was a goal the coaching staff set for the players. As it was accomplished, it was a sure sign to Boucher that this group was capable of coming together. It's a series of those kinds of goals set forth that continue to be attained that shows just what this team is made of. "You can't get chemistry until you accomplish things,'' Boucher said. "You can just be a bunch of guys that likes to be together, but real chemistry is battling together and accomplishing things together, going through adversity together and getting through it together and finding ways together and getting the feeling that the guy beside you is going be there for you when you are in trouble, fight when it's time to fight and he's not going to fly away or freeze. And we've got that.'' It's a big reason why a team, which started the season with a new coach, new system and half a roster of new players, can be among the top teams in the league when the biggest hope coming into the season was to be in contention for a playoff spot heading into the final month. "We had good chemistry in the short time that we had together (at the start of the season) and that was impressive in how little time it took for the guys to buy in,'' Boucher said. "But to buy in is one thing; to buy in and execute is very difficult and they have been doing that for a long time. And we've said it, we know that we are not the No. 1 powerhouse team on paper, but we know that we have some intangibles that other teams don't have and that's where we compensate.''