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Alexeev still learning the ropes

By Times wire and staff report

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2002


TAMPA -- Right wing Nikita Alexeev has bounced between the Lightning and the Springfield (Mass.) Falcons, its minor-league team in the American Hockey League. He's with Tampa Bay at the moment, but he won't be for long. He needs more work to prove he really belongs in the NHL, coach John Tortorella said.

TAMPA -- Right wing Nikita Alexeev has bounced between the Lightning and the Springfield (Mass.) Falcons, its minor-league team in the American Hockey League. He's with Tampa Bay at the moment, but he won't be for long. He needs more work to prove he really belongs in the NHL, coach John Tortorella said.

"The whole book on Nikita through his junior days and even down in Springfield throughout the year is his inconsistency as far as desperation and play," Tortorella said. "He still struggles with that. Even in the games he plays well (in the NHL), I think he still needs to concentrate on that. He still doesn't understand that."

Alexeev was sent to Springfield during the NHL All-Star break. Tortorella said he wanted him to use the weekend to prove how badly he wanted to come back up.

"(Falcons coach) Marc Potvin said he was outstanding. He's brought that to us. He has played very well." After Monday, Alexeev will return to Springfield to get more games under his belt during the Olympic break.

Tortorella said Alexeev still has to learn "that you don't take a shift off in the National Hockey League," how fine the line is between winning and losing and how one bad shift can cost a team a game.

Alexeev does have one thing going for him: youth. At 20 he is the youngest Lightning player. "We have 23-, 24-year-olds on this team who don't understand that," Tortorella said.

ANOTHER INJURY: Vinny Lecavalier sprained his left ankle in the first period. After he was hurt in the opening minutes, he returned with six minutes left in the period and played two shifts before it was decided he would sit out the rest of the game.

YOU LOOK FAMILIAR: The Lightning and Capitals meet again Monday in Washington, the second half of Tampa Bay's second straight home-and-home series (it split with the Panthers on Thursday and Friday).

Does familiarity breed ... anything?

"The whole key with back-to-back games is that second game," Tortorella said. "It's not so much the Xs ands Os part of it. It's the energy, maybe fighting through a little fatigue.

"There aren't too many secrets in this game. Everybody breaks down tapes. Everybody has a pretty good idea of the personnel on each team and what kind of style they like to play."

UP, DOWN AND OUT: The Lightning recalled center Martin Cibak from Springfield and reassigned left wing Ryan Tobler to the AHL club. Center Tim Taylor (groin) and left wing Dimitry Afanasenkov (healthy scratch) sat out, as did Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig, who injured his left knee Friday night at Nashville. Kolzig likely will miss Monday's game as well.

-- BRUCE LOWITT, TIMES WIRES

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