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Bolts Welcome Break Written by Laci Bloomers - February 5th, 2009

For 20 games this season, the only consistency for the Tampa Bay Lightning was their inability to put together a streak of any kind.  In that stretch, they failed to win, lose or tie back to back games.

Since then, they have strung a 4-game losing streak together, dropping them to the cellar in their Conference.  Strangely enough, the last 3 defeats have been by 4-3 scores.


The addition of All-World goaltender Martin Brodeur and blueline anchor Rob Blake didn't help last time out, as neither player shone in their Tampa Bay debut.  Blake, in fact, joined club leader Rod Brind A'mour at a -3.

To that, the team welcomes a 4 day break in their schedule, not playing again until saturday, when they travel to Raleigh to play the Curricanes.

"Getting a break like this right away is not a bad thing at all." stated Blake.  "We have some new players coming in to key positions and we need to get some practices under our belt.  I know I felt detached from my team in my first game here, and it showed."

Brodeur will use the time to rest a nagging groin which had the star playing about 95%.  "It has been  a little sore" admitted Brodeur, "so the break will help me get back to 100% so I can help lead this team up the standings."

Coach Dave Tippett, who has clearly been frustrated by his team's play since taking over the helm, clearly feels this is a playoff team.  "The big issue with the Lightning is that the players have not had that confidence that they can win every night out.  That is strange given that we are a team of veterans, very successful veterans.  When you look at the likes of Brindy, Holik, Commodore, Blake, Knubes, Robby Neids, Jere ... these players are winners.  It may take Marty to steal a game for us, or some timely goals, but each player on the ice has to be that little bit better and this team has the opportunity to go on a tear.  This is not a last place team, and they need to look in the mirror and see that for themselves."

At this point, as well as a playoff spot, many players on this team are playing for positions next season.  With 13 players on the farm team who are NHL regulars this season, and several of them playing key roles for their team, it is safe to say that there will be some players on the Lightning roster who will not be here.  With a decent future, many of the veterans would love to have the chance to play here, and as such realise they have to be better.  There are 6 pending UFAs (Holik, Brind A'mour, Pandolfo, Larsen, McGillis and Blake) and four RFAs (Hilbert, Hall, Gordon and Commodore) on the current Lightning roster.  McGillis as well as back-up goaltender Robert Esche are expected to retire after the season.  Of the group, the team would like to keep at least a pair of UFAs and a pair of RFAs from this year's roster, but their play will dictate whether GM Normoyle cuts some loose and plays a stronger role in signing other Free Agents to come play, while graduating many several of the Macon Whoopee club.

With this team's situation, there are a lot of players here who will need to use this break as a chance to regroup and make the final playoff pitch.  Right  now it does not look great.  37 points.  38 games remaining.  8 points shy of owning a playoff spot.  7 teams to climb over. 27th overall.  Only 6-11-2 at home this season (only Colorado has a worse home record).  Even at that, Brodeur thinks this team has what it takes.  "I believe the Lightning will make the playoffs."

If the rest of the team buys in to their new star netminder's theory, then perhaps they can.

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