Tampa Bay Lightning
Lecavalier's play of late has been a driving force
TAMPA - After battling a bout of self-confidence for the season's first two months, Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier's fire appears to have been reignited. Perhaps the notion of being a parent, as longtime girlfriend Caroline Portelance is expecting the couple's first child in May, has given the 29-year-old a new perspective on life off the ice. Or maybe he finally started relying more on his natural abilities to help snap out of a scoring funk. Either way, Lecavalier has been a driving force as the Lightning face Montreal tonight having won four of the past five games. In the past seven games, Lecavalier has three goals and eight assists, compiling four multipoint efforts during that stretch. Though the former Rocket Richard Trophy winner's goal-scoring touch is not where he wants it to be, Lecavalier has crept into the top 30 scoring leaders, tied for 24th through Monday, and was tied for 11th with 28 assists. His between-the-legs backhand pass to set up Alex Tanguay's goal Monday night is one of those instinctual moments he might not have tried a month ago."I feel better when I have the puck and the play-making aspect is going pretty well. I think we are really clicking as a line and I think that really helps everybody," Lecavalier said. "But I know that goal scoring is still an area I want to get my confidence higher, but I think that will come." When Lecavalier drives the net the way he has of late, when he backchecks with authority, delivers hits and leads the charge as he has the past two weeks, the rest of the team takes notice and follows. "It's contagious when you see Vinny Lecavalier going to the net hard, handling the puck, dumping the puck in and getting off after a 30-second shift. All those guys see their captain do it, they start doing it," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. Lecavalier's recent play is a must if the team is going to be successful. "I'm not a coach that likes to put a lot of pressure on one guy. I mean, we have 21 guys, but Vinny Lecavalier has to play well for us if we are going to go anywhere, that's the law of the land," Tocchet said. "I can name a number of guys, but he's the focal point and he's a guy - we've won four of the past five and he's a big reason." In case some outside the team think Lecavalier looks unhappy and might benefit from a move - as some national media members suggested earlier this season - he says otherwise. "I know I'm happy. I know we have a great chance at making the playoffs and I think we should make the playoffs. I want to be a part of it," he said. "So I don't really care what other people say." OLYMPIC PICKS: Canada announces its Olympic roster at noon today. ... Bolts defenseman Andrej Meszaros was named to the Slovakia roster for the second time in his career Tuesday. ... Prospect Martins Karsums was selected to play for Latvia.
Reporter Erik Erlendsson can be reached at (813) 259-7835.