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Lightning: 10 questions/answers exiting camp

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 6, 2002


The Times posed 10 questions the Lightning needed to answer during camp. Let's see if it provided the answers.

Can Vinny Lecavalier and coach John Tortorella find common ground?

Not only do they appear to have found it, they appear to be trying to cultivate it. Conversations in practice often are punctuated with a laugh and a smile. A small thing, but important when you think of how Lecavalier sulked through last season's tumult. Tortorella has kept his word to use Lecavalier in all situations, and the center seems energetic and focused.

Is Kevin Hodson really the answer?

Hodson will be the backup goaltender when the season begins. How long he remains is another story. The Lightning will give Nikolai Khabibulin the bulk of the work this month and use the time to evaluate Hodson or try to work out a trade. Hodson, 30, can solidify his position by continuing to look sharp in practice and shining when he gets to play.

Who will emerge at right wing?

No one has shown enough consistency to claim the spot on the No. 2 line, which means Ruslan Fedotenko may be switched from left wing. Shane Willis started slowly and hasn't wowed anyone. Ben Clymer is trying to find consistent footing. Sheldon Keefe has made the most noise with three goals and three assists in six games, though his grinding style is probably better suited to a third-line position and Tortorella likes him in a utility position. Which brings us to question No. 4.

Where does Vinny Prospal fit in?

It could be right wing or left, depending on which side Fedotenko ends up. Prospal, a natural center, moved to Lecavalier's No. 2 line for Tuesday's game against the Thrashers. The line, which included Fedotenko, played very well. Prospal brings high energy and athleticism, and the increase in ice time will only help. He also seems miscast as a third-line center, which is what he would be behind Brad Richards and Lecavalier.

Can Alexander Svitov really contribute?

You bet. The Russian rookie has proven he can handle the rigors of the NHL. The question is, should the center continue learning at the elite level, where he likely will get 10-12 minutes on a fourth line, or at AHL Springfield, where he will get 20-25 minutes? Svitov, 19, has future star written all over him. But is the future now?

Have all the injuries healed?

Right wing Martin St. Louis appears recovered from last season's broken leg. Left wing Fredrik Modin said he feels no pain from last season's surgery on his right wrist. He has had tendinitis in his right pinkie, which is annoying but not serious. Center Tim Taylor's right groin muscle is detached from the hip bone, but extensive conditioning has strengthened the surrounding muscles and Taylor has looked fairly nimble.

What does Ruslan Fedotenko bring?

A quiet efficiency. Fedotenko is not flashy but he is around the puck and takes advantage of his opportunities. Fedotenko had three goals and two assists through five preseason games and appears to be fitting in well with Lecavalier.

What is the Lightning's payroll?

Based on the salaries of the 24 players on the roster before a final cut this week achieves the 23-man limit, it appears the payroll will be about $30-million. That would be an increase of $4-million over last season but $8-million below last season's NHL average.

Is Pavel Kubina ready to step up?

Tortorella has put the defenseman on notice. He must stop repeating mistakes, not only those from this season but those he made in past seasons and has not corrected. Kubina has the skills to be a force, and his booming slap shot and enormous potential will keep him in the lineup.

Can this team make the playoffs?

It can if everything -- and we mean everything -- breaks right and there are no major injuries. It is more reasonable to expect Tampa Bay to reach 80 points, an 11-point increase from last season. A fast start is a must. In its first 12 games Tampa Bay plays just two teams that were .500 or better last season, and plays six games against division foes.


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