Payroll contingent on results
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 27, 2002
TORONTO -- The way the Lightning finishes the season will be vital to the team's future as it likely will influence if ownership expands next season's payroll.
"It's critical," general manager Jay Feaster said of the team's last 10 games. "It's critical to show ownership how close we really are."
The Lightning's wish list includes two scoring forwards and a top-four defenseman. But those pieces will not be forthcoming unless Lightning owner Palace Sports & Entertainment increases its investment.
That is a lot to ask of a company that says it has lost about $10-million a season since acquiring the team and the lease to the Ice Palace in the summer of 1999.
That is why Feaster said the Lightning must continue the kind of play that has made it one of the East's most competitive teams since the Olympic break.
"This is an opportunity for us as a hockey team to demonstrate to ownership that this is a club that's going to play physical hockey every night and we're close to becoming a playoff team," Feaster said.
The Lightning entered Tuesday's game against the Maple Leafs nine points behind the Canadiens for the East's final playoff spot.
While that is an almost impossible mountain to climb, Feaster said the team cannot afford to simply play out the string.
"It's about establishing credibility with ownership and our fans to show how good this hockey team is," Feaster said. "We must still play meaningful games in April. We have to battle this thing down to the last game at the end of the season."
HURTIN' LEAFS: Toronto was without goalie Curtis Joseph (broken hand), right wing Mikael Renberg (hamstring), left wing Gary Roberts (rib muscle strain) and defenseman Dmitry Yushkevich (blood clot).
HE'S BACK: Leafs center Darcy Tucker returned after a two-game suspension for his hit on Washington's Sergei Gonchar. Tucker told the Toronto Sun he will not change his rough-and-tumble style.
"You live by the sword, and you die by the sword," the former Lightning player said. "I play the game hard, and now I have to pay for it."
BIG SHOT: A slap shot by Lightning left wing Andre Roy shattered a pane of glass along the side boards during the morning skate.
"I kind of just shot it, and it splashed," he said.
ODDS AND ENDS: Lightning forward Dave Andreychuk played his 1,433rd game, passing Mike Gartner for 11th all time. ... Defenseman Grant Ledyard was scratched.
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