For some players, being a healthy scratch in five of a team's six games would be maddening. But for Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie, it is a chance to learn.
Talk about a coach's dream, Labrie said he is watching teammates when they play, talking to them and ready to put what he learns into practice. That may come this weekend as Labrie, who tonight will be a healthy scratch against the Panthers, likely will play at least one game of a back-to-back with the Jets and Rangers.
"I take the positive side," said Labrie, whose only game this season was Jan. 21 at the Islanders against whom he had just 4:54 of ice time and five minutes in the penalty box after a fight on the opening faceoff with Joe Finley. "I work out to get stronger, faster, so every time I jump on the ice every day I feel better. So, when they tell me I'm in, I'm all in. It's a different mind-set but I learn so much."
For example, Labrie, a 6-foot-4, 220 pound ball of energy, said he watches how B.J. Crombeen protects his teammates by approaching opponents when he wants to send a message. He watches Ryan Malone and how he uses his body to shield the puck, and Adam Hall because the forward rarely turns over the puck.
"I take it in," Labrie said. "It's a process."
Chances are Labrie will play against the Jets and/or Rangers because both teams are big and fast. The Jets, especially, gave Tampa Bay trouble last season because of their size and strength. Labrie has size, speed and strength, too, and isn't afraid to hit or fight. The key, Labrie said, is not to try to do too much when he finally gets a chance to play. He said he fell into that trap on Long Island.
"I already learned from my mistakes in that game," Labrie said. "Now, I'm just going to do my role of a fourth-liner, keep it simple, chip in, chip out, forecheck, hit people, get the momentum and the energy."
And since the Lightning has no immediate plan to send Labrie back to AHL Syracuse, he said, "I'll be patient, no panic. There's always positives with everything."
Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected, Anders Lindback gets the start in net tonight against the Panthers but expect Mathieu Garon to play against either the Jets or Rangers. ... Defensemen Brendan Mikkelson and Marc-Andre Bergeron also are scratched. ... Crombeen, who missed Monday's practice with a bruised left foot serious enough to require a walking boot, is expected to play. ... A weird moment and just as weird explanation as rookie left wing Cory Conacher stumbled as he made his way down the hallway from the ice to the locker room during the morning skate. He later returned to the ice and said he had a skate problem. Conacher said he had inadvertently laced his right skate incorrectly, using the second lace hole from the top which, he claims, threw off his skating and, apparently, his walking as well. Conacher said he has "for some reason" left that second lace hole unused since college. So with the lace in that hole on Tuesday, "I was a little messed up," Conacher said. "We were going on the ice and I could feel it. It feels like your one leg is a little more off than the other one." Bottom line, Conacher said he is fine and will play. ... Coach Guy Boucher was asked if he would rather not see his star players fight. Captain Vinny Lecavalier got into a scrape on Sunday with the Flyers' Luke Schenn. "Obviously, when guys fight like that, the only thing I'm thinking about is not him winning but him getting injured," Boucher said. "But I can't think like that because the players react to what's happening during the game and Vinny felt it was a moment he needed to take a stand, and it had a huge effect on our players." Lecavalier has fought just 22 times in the NHL, including playoffs, and said that he is concerned about injuries when he fights but, "In the moment you don't have time to think about it. If you're going to do it, you just have to do it." Asked if he held his breath while Lecavalier was fighting Schenn, Boucher said, "A couple of seconds? How about the whole time." ... Defenseman Brian Lee has had a rough start to his season. He is minus-4 with five penalties in four games. But Lee played better Monday against the Flyers with three hits and two blocked shots in 12:36 of ice time. "We had a good talk," Boucher said. "He wanted to do too much at first like most guys who don't have too much experience with a new team. He sees the competition we've got and he wants to stay in the lineup, so he was overdoing the few things we wanted him to do. Now, he calmed his game." What does Boucher like about Lee's game? "He closes his guys," Boucher said. "He finishes his checks. we know there are things to work on but we like the fact he's defensive-minded first and we want to build on that with him."
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Marty St. Louis, third in the league with 11 points and who had four assists in Sunday's 5-1 victory over the Flyers, was named the NHL's third star of the week ending Sunday behind San Jose's Patrick Marleau and Chicago's Corey Crawford.
Here is the announcement from the league:
FIRST STAR – PATRICK MARLEAU, LW, SAN JOSE SHARKS
Marleau led the League with nine goals and 13 points, and became the
second player in NHL history and first since Cy Denneny in 1917-18 (Ottawa)
to record four consecutive multi-goal games to begin a season. Marleau
opened the season with two tallies in a 4-1 victory at the Calgary Flames
Jan. 20. He then recorded two goals, including the game-winner, and an
assist in each of the next three contests – a 6-3 win at the Edmonton
Oilers Jan. 22, a 5-3 triumph over the Phoenix Coyotes Jan. 24 and a 4-0
victory against the Colorado Avalanche Jan. 26. Marleau continued his
explosive start to the season with a goal and an assist in a 4-1 victory
over the Vancouver Canucks Jan. 27. He is the first player in Sharks
history to find the back of the net in each of the team’s first five games
of a season and the first player on any NHL team to do so since 2008, when
both the Blues’ Keith Tkachuk (six games) and the Sabres’ Thomas Vanek
(five) did so.
SECOND STAR – COREY CRAWFORD, G, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Crawford posted five wins, a 1.78 goals-against average and a .933
save percentage to help the Blackhawks pick up a franchise-record six
consecutive wins to begin the season. He opened the campaign with 19 saves
in a 5-2 victory at the Los Angeles Kings Jan. 19, stopped 32 shots in a
3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues Jan. 22 and made 21 saves in a 3-2
overtime victory at the Dallas Stars Jan. 24. Crawford capped his
performance with a pair of weekend wins, denying 24 shots in a 3-2 victory
at the Columbus Blue Jackets Jan. 26 and 29 shots in a 2-1 overtime win
against the Detroit Red Wings Jan. 27.
THIRD STAR – MARTIN ST. LOUIS, RW, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
St. Louis tied for second in the NHL with eight assists and ranked
third with 11 points as the Lightning won four of five games to open the
season. He scored two goals, including the game-winner, and added an assist
in a 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals Jan. 19 and recorded a goal and
an assist in a 4-3 defeat at the New York Islanders Jan. 21. St. Louis then
picked up two helpers in a 6-4 victory against the Ottawa Senators Jan. 25
and closed the week with four assists in a 5-1 triumph over the
Philadelphia Flyers Jan. 27.