Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning playoff push will take enormous effort
TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Lightning's longest winning streak of the season must take a break. With the All-Star game set for this weekend in Ottawa, Tampa Bay will have to wait until Washington comes to town Tuesday — after the weeklong break — to try to pick up a fifth consecutive victory. And resume its come-from-behind effort to make the playoffs. The season began with inflated expectations after the Lightning reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last season, losing to eventual champion Boston. Training camp started with dreams of taking things one step further.Instead, Tampa Bay is 21-23-4 — 11th in the Eastern Conference and nine points out of a playoff spot with 34 games to play. "From the beginning of the season, we said our goal was to compete for a playoff spot, and right now we are behind the 8-ball in competing for a playoff spot, but we haven't given up hope on that," Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman said. "At the beginning of the year, we got off to a bad start, we've had some injuries, but we just have to keep plugging away. Our players have been great. Their attitude is great. They've worked hard and really competed. Some areas of our game have to be better, some of them have improved and they will have to continue to improve." Though the All-Star game does not mark the midway point of the season — Tampa Bay has played 48 of 82 games — it offers a chance to reflect on what went wrong and right, where the Lightning are, where they hope to be and how they intend to get there.