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Modin anxious to slap back into good form of 2000-01

The power is still there, but the Lightning forward hasn't found the net this preseason.

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

TORONTO -- The puck moves onto Fredrik Modin's stick, and you wait to see the logical next step.

You wait for a screaming slap shot to hit the net before the goaltender can move. You wait for Modin's subtle toe drag that signals a wrist shot is coming to scorch the air and find a home in the goal's top corner.

You wait, but so many times this preseason Modin's shots have deflected off sticks or hit the glass as they sail wide of the net.

You see Modin, and you see frustration.

The player who scored 32 goals for Tampa Bay in 2000-01, was a World All-Star and won the hardest shot competition with a blast of 102.1 mph is in a funk. He had three points -- no goals, three assists -- in seven games including Saturday night's 3-2 preseason victory over the Maple Leafs.

Modin, who turns 28 Tuesday, is an alternate captain, a leader in the locker room. But for the Lightning to even hope to get near the playoffs, the big Swede has to regain his form of two years ago.

"I can't see why not," Modin said when asked if it will happen. "I've done it once and I don't think I'm a worse player in any way than I was then; probably the opposite. I'm a better player, a more experienced player. I'm just hoping to rebound."

"He's definitely pressing," coach John Tortorella said. "He's squeezing the stick. He needs to break his game down to the small things, and it will all take care of itself."

This is an important season for Modin, not only for how he comes back from last season's 14-goal performance but for how it shapes his future with the team.

A main reason general manager Jay Feaster signed Modin to a one-year, $1.7-million contract was because he wanted to evaluate him before committing to a longer deal. Feaster wants to see if Modin regains his scoring touch. He wants to see if Modin can stay healthy.

"It's an absolutely critical year for him," Feaster said. "If we're to be a playoff team, we need him to be a 30-goal scorer.

"He needs to answer a lot of questions for us."

"I haven't been told that straight up," Modin said, "but if I'm not doing my job, or not playing up to the expectations the team has or you have, that needs to be considered after your contract is up, and that goes for everybody.

"My contract situation is something I'm not even thinking of at all." Modin was a warrior last season, playing hurt without complaint. It was that determination and fortitude that helped him earn the A on his jersey.

But he missed 26 games with torn cartilage in his right wrist that required surgery, and his 18-goal dropoff was part of a team-wide scoring drought.

Modin missed two preseason games with tendinitis in his right pinkie. He said the injury is not related to the wrist problem, and is more annoying and uncomfortable than painful. But it kept him off the ice when he was trying to regain his timing and form.

Tortorella said he wants to see Modin forecheck more to better create opportunities and to use his 6-foot-4, 225-pound body to be strong on the puck and shield it from the opposition.

Most of all, he needs to get shots to the net. Once they get there, considering the speed at which they arrive, goalies will be hard-pressed to stop them.

Tortorella wants Modin to take 300 shots. A pace, he said, that should equate to 30 goals.

"We're going to keep putting him out there so he can try to play his way out of it," Tortorella said.

Modin said he is feeling good on the ice and "going in the right direction." And his game against the Maple Leafs, in which he had five shots on goal and two assists, including one on Jason Cullimore's winner in overtime, was his best of the season.

Still, he admitted, "I would have hoped to have played better than what I have so far. It doesn't make me nervous. But at the same time, I'm thinking about my game and where I want it to be, and it's not there yet."

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