St. Petersburg Times
Tampa Bay Lightning

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A simple plan: score more

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 8, 2002

BRANDON -- Lightning center Vinny Prospal considered the team's 19 one-goal losses last season and shook his head.

"Nineteen games by one goal," he said. "If we just tied them. . . "

That would have been 15 more points (taking into account four overtime losses), giving Tampa Bay 84 points and at least a sniff of the playoffs. Okay, so the equation is oversimplified, but the feeling of a lost opportunity is tangible among Lightning players.

"When you break it down like that you realize how close it is," left wing Fredrik Modin said.

Said Prospal: "We just need to score some goals to win some games."

Finding ways to do that more consistently will be a main theme of training camp, which opens Thursday at the Ice Sports Forum with two days of physicals and fitness tests.

Practices begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Tampa Bay hopes to build on the 23 games it played after the Olympic break in which it scored 65 goals (an average of 2.8), compared with the 113 goals it scored in its first 59 games (an average of 1.9).

The Lightning's 178 goals were third-worst in the league and the team's second-worst total, excluding the 1994-95 lockout season.

"We were involved in so many 1-0 and 2-1 games (11 through 52 games) that our mind-set got to be more careful," associate coach Craig Ramsay said. "I know John (coach Tortorella) didn't want it to be like that and I didn't want it to be like that."

During the Olympic break, Tampa Bay changed its attack to allow defensemen to pinch more from the blue line and forwards to be more aggressive. That put pressure on opposing goaltenders and created more scoring chances.

"It comes down to consistency," center Brad Richards said. "We proved we can score. We just have to do it all the time. You can't have three guys on a goal streak and the rest of the guys in slumps."

"You have to be ready from the first game," Modin said. "The season is long, but you can't wait. You don't want to be at the end of the season like we were and look back and say, 'What if?' "

STANDING PAT: General manager Jay Feaster said he is done dealing until he gauges the team in camp. Competition should be keen at the skating positions, especially right wing and defense.

"We have quite a bit of depth, so we'll go into camp with what we have and see how things shake out," Feaster said. "We're not going to pre-judge anything. We need to get into camp and let the battles and competition begin."

The rumor mill never stops, though. Talk in Canada had the Lightning inquiring about Senators defenseman Sami Salo and backup goaltender Jani Hurme. Feaster said the rumors were false.

HOLLOW MAN: That is what Ramsay is calling himself after having his gall bladder removed after last season because it was "full of stones." The associate coach, 51, also is without his appendix (removed in 1971) and stomach (removed in 1993 because of ulcers).

"It's a good story because you can function very well without a stomach," Ramsay said.

Ramsay said his food goes right from the esophagus to the small intestine. He said it is difficult to eat big meals, which has made it tough to recover the 10 pounds he lost after the gall bladder surgery.

WATER WOES: Massive flooding in the Czech Republic seriously affected the families of defenseman Stan Neckar and Prospal, both of whom live in the town of Ceske Budejovice.

Neckar said the rink at which his father works was flooded by 12 feet of water. Prospal said his parents' clothing store was flooded by eight feet.

Prospal said his parents were able to clean up and re-open. Neckar said the damage to the ice rink may keep it closed. Neckar's brother, Zbynek, 23, recently signed a contract to play defense for the rink's minor-league team.

"Maybe my father doesn't have a job and the same thing can happen to my brother," Neckar said.

Neckar said he planned to buy a house in Ceske Budejovice over the summer but changed his mind. Good thing.

"It's under water now," he said.

SHAPING UP: By spending the summer in the weight room and changing his diet (eating six small meals a day and fewer carbohydrates), right wing Sheldon Keefe went from 194 to 184 pounds and shrunk his waist from 34 to 32 inches.

"The goal was to get quicker," Keefe said. "I feel good and stronger. It was a successful summer."

It also answered Tortorella, who told Keefe at last season's exit interview he had to improve his skating.

"Camp will be a time that I show them how I worked over the summer and prove I can play the game," Keefe said.

TICKETS ON SALE: Single-game tickets go on sale at noon Saturday through Ticketmaster, the St. Pete Times Forum box office or by calling (813) 301-2500. Tickets will be available from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ice Sports Forum.

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