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Trio avoids first-class problem

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 3, 2002

TAMPA -- Lightning forward Sheldon Keefe made a veteran move last weekend -- in an airport.

He and teammates Nikita Alexeev and Martin Cibak were booked on an early flight from Hartford, Conn., to Tampa after being recalled from minor-league affiliate Springfield. When they arrived two hours before their flight, Keefe took one look at the ticket-counter line and knew they would never make it to the gate on time.

"The line was unbelievable," Keefe said. "We had played the night before, gotten up at 5 o'clock, hadn't eaten breakfast. But there was no line at the first-class desk."

Though holding business-class tickets, Keefe went to the first-class counter and offered the agent a few dollars to check the players through. The agent refused, but did the players a favor.

"Luckily, he was a hockey fan," Keefe said.

This season, Alexeev had missed a flight to join the team in Ottawa. When he arrived late, coach John Tortorella told him to go back to Springfield.

The trio did not want a repeat.

"There was no way we were missing that flight," said Keefe, who sent autographed cards to the agent and his sons to show gratitude. "But without his help, there's no way we would have made it."

MR. VERSATILE: Veteran defenseman Grant Ledyard has played left wing the past two games because the team is injury-riddled at forward.

"I enjoyed myself," Ledyard said. "I'll do whatever it takes. When a team is down on its luck with injuries, everybody's got to do whatever they can. That's when the game is easiest, because it's in its simplest form."

TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT: The Lightning Alumni Experience will give recreational players a chance to mix it up with some of their former Lightning favorites April 7 at the Ice Palace.

The six-team, round-robin tournament is for moderately skilled players, with former Lightning and NHL players to serve as team captains. Among those scheduled to participate are Chris Kontos, John Tucker, Rudy Poeschek, Enrico Ciccone, Paul Ysebaert, Alexander Selivanov and Pat Jablonski.

Entry fee of $195 per player includes a jersey and a suite party for that night's Tampa Bay-Buffalo game. Sign up at www.skateshootscore.com, or call Tucker at (813) 301-6651.

SCRATCHES: Centers Vinny Lecavalier (chipped ankle) and Tim Taylor (groin) sat out. Lecavalier said he hopes to play Wednesday against Edmonton; Taylor is day-to-day.

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