Jon Cooper's message to the Tampa Bay Lightning is simple. If you hope to make the playoffs, play better defense.
No team in the NHL allowed more goals over the past two seasons than the 425 yielded by the Lightning, who dismissed former coach Guy Boucher and hired Cooper as his replacement last March.
Cooper went 4-8-3 over the final 15 games of last season and is working on changing the mind-set of a team that's thrived on the scoring prowess of young Steven Stamkos and two holdovers from Tampa Bay's only Stanley Cup championship, Martin St. Louis and the now departed Vincent Lecavalier.
''It doesn't take a rocket scientist to open up the stat pack and see,'' Cooper said. ''We are the only team to give up more than 400 goals the past two seasons, and we have to shore that up.''
With an eye on building for long-term success, general manager Steve Yzerman bought out the contract of Lecavalier this offseason.
The 38-year-old St. Louis and Stamkos remain, though, are finishing on...