Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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Lightning to scratch Alex Tanguay, Jeff Halpern tonight against Nahsville
Posted Dec 15, 2009 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated Dec 15, 2009 at 04:07 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Looking to turnaround recent misfortunes and wakeup a slumping team, Lightning coach Rick Tocchet has benched two of Tampa Bay’s big pieces.
The Lightning will face the Predators tonight minus former all-star Alex Tanguay and center Jeff Halpern, both of whom will be healthy scratches tonight as Tampa Bay attempts to end a stretch of nine games in which the Lightning have one victory. Tampa Bay will field a team with eight defensemen in the lineup, with David Hale and Kurtis Foster expected to see time on the fourth line.
“We’ve got eight (losses) in nine and I don’t like the trend, certain individuals and as a team,’’ Tocchet said. “And that’s probably my fault for letting it go the past three or four games. Sometimes you put the onus on the players and certain people to straighten it. But ultimately it’s on my (rear end). Hopefully we’ll have 18 or 19 guys going and not just 11 or 12.’‘
While Tocchet said there are a number of guys who’s games are struggling right now, Tanguay is the first to feel what might be a trend in the next few games of certain guys sitting a game out as the coaching staff looks to get the attention of the locker room after the team has scored three goals in four games heading into tonight.
“It’s a situation where it’s a shock thing for everybody or . . . I really don’t care what the message is other than the fact that we need results,’’ Tocchet said. “We need to be able to play 60 minutes, not 30 minutes and because we are down a goal everybody does their own program. Ultimately, that falls on me so we are going to find guys who can stick with the plan.’‘
While the offense has taken a nose dive in recent weeks, Tanguay is struggling to produce more so than any other top forward on the team. After signing a one-year deal worth $2.5 million as a free agent, Tanguay has scored just four goals on the season while chipping in with 13 assists in 32 games. He has not scored a goal since Nov. 16 in Phoenix and has just five assists in that same time.
“Alex has to get his position, when he’s not scoring, he has to get into position of tracking the right way, slashing across the ice just doing the right stuff,’’ Tocchet said. “But like I said, he’s one of five guys - right now we are working with him. He’ll get back in, but right now he just needs to take a step back here and get going again.’‘
Tanguay was obviously upset about the decision, at first not wanting to discuss his benching, but did offer a few words on his feelings.
“What is there to say? I try my hardest, I guess it’s not good enough,’’ Tanguay said. “The team is slumping and I’m a big part of it. I’ll take my . . . we’ll see.’‘
As far as Halpern sitting out, Tocchet said the decision wasn’t based on the play of the 32-year-old center but rather a coach’s decision for some unspecified incident between Halpern and Tocchet.
“It’s more of a team thing between me and him and I’m not really go to comment on it. It’s a one-game thing with him, he knows it and we are ready to move on from it. It’s kind of (disclipline related), but I’m not going to get into it. It’s not team rules, Halpy is a solid citizen, it’s just something between me and him. He doesn’t break rules.’‘
Halpern, who said the last time he was a healthy scratch came during his third year in the league, didn’t want to discuss his benching, only confirming that the situation was between him and Tocchet.