WASHINGTON — When Teddy Purcell plays with the puck, the Tampa Bay Lightning winger can be a potent player.
In the past two months, however, Purcell’s point production has come to a virtual pause. And for a team struggling to score goals, seeing Purcell get on track offensively would be a welcome sight.
“When he doesn’t have the puck, sometimes that’s when he’s not involved and he can be ineffective. But when he has (the puck), really good things happen on the ice,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I just think he’s in a situation right now where he’s not seeing the puck much and then when he does get it, I think he’s trying to do a little too much.
“He can’t always depend on guys to get the puck for him. He’s going to have to go get it himself sometimes. When he is sitting back that’s when he has a tough time. But when you see him skating and being aggressive, when he is demanding the puck, I don’t know if there are many guys better that can do something with it.”
Purcell, who is in the first year of three-year, $13.5 million contract extension, started the season by showing exactly what he is capable of when he’s playing with confidence, scoring four times and adding four assists in the first six games. But since Oct. 17, Purcell has just three goals and eight points, with two of those goals and three of the points coming in a Nov. 25 victory against the Rangers.
Purcell, 28, knows he needs to show the same form from the 2011 postseason — six goals and 17 points in 18 games — and his 2011-12 regular season, when he finished with a career-high 24 goals and 65 points.
“I’m not a young guy here anymore,” Purcell said. “When they signed me to a long-term extension, they put their trust in you, and you want to step up. And sometimes you try to do too much and that doesn’t work either.
“So you have to try to find the right balance working hard with poise but at the same time not trying to do too much. So it’s tough. It eats at you for sure.”
Under previous head coach Guy Boucher, Purcell was scratched and demoted to the lower lines in an effort to motivate him. Purcell is beyond that at this point in his career, however, and Cooper doesn’t have issues with Purcell’s compete level, though he’d like to see Purcell get involved in fighting for more pucks.
“Guys will grade themselves on all those stats and they have to understand that we don’t grade them on just stats,” Cooper said. “It’s our job that they understand that it’s not always about how many points you put up on the board, it’s are you playing the game the right way and eventually the stats will come.”
Because Purcell has been through these stretches before, he understands the situation.
“I always talk about consistency and it’s always been my downfall throughout my career,” Purcell said. “But you just have to try to do the right things, try not to get scored on. So, if you’re doing those things, you are not a liability out there and you are helping your team in other ways. Then eventually they’re going to start going in for you.”
Lightning captain Marty St. Louis said what Purcell is going through is a mirror for the rest of the team. The Lightning are struggling to score goals during a 5-6-2 stretch, with fewer than two goals in five of the past eight games.
“I don’t think anybody’s game is where it should be,” St. Louis said. “Nobody is playing with a lot of swagger or confidence, you have to build it up. So, I think once we start playing with some more confidence, guys will start scoring a little bit and they will start feeling good about themselves.
“And then boom, boom, boom, boom. When he feels good about himself, he is going to help somebody else probably score a goal because he’s playing with a little bit of confidence. It’s a trickle effect.”