© St. Petersburg Times, published October 7, 2002
TORONTO -- Lightning players were feeling pretty good about themselves after Saturday night's 3-2 overtime victory over the Maple Leafs.
Forgive Nikita Alexeev for not joining the fun.
The left wing was told before the game, along with center Martin Cibak and defenseman Darren Rumble, he was being assigned to AHL Springfield.
For a player who spent the summer adding 20 pounds of muscle and began training camp playing on the top lines, it was a bitter disappointment.
"I thought I did pretty good," Alexeev said after the game while sitting in the locker room at the Air Canada Centre.
Asked what he was told by general manager Jay Feaster, Alexeev said, "The same things, go down, work hard, get better."
Feaster said Alexeev's main shortcoming was a lack of consistency. When pressed, Alexeev, 20, the No. 8 overall pick of the 2000 draft, grudgingly agreed.
But he pointed to the 44 games he played with Tampa Bay last season and added, "I scored some points (four goals, four assists), and I'm pretty sure I can do that again this season. I just have to get a chance. My time will come."
UNSPORTSMANLIKE REUNION: Defenseman Brad Lukowich and Maple Leafs forward Darcy Tucker were roommates in the early '90s with Kamloops of the Western Hockey League.
The reunion came in the first period, when Lukowich crushed Tucker against the boards, his shoulder slamming into Tucker's mouth.
Tucker wanted to fight but Lukowich would not engage. As Lukowich laid on the ice, Tucker appeared to lift him by the jersey and slam down his head.
Tucker got two minutes for roughing and two for unsportsmanlike conduct. Lukowich was not penalized.
"I didn't mean to do it, but it was a clean hit," said Lukowich, who had a red welt on his forehead. "He was a little upset, but that's the game."
MOTIVATION: The schedule says the regular season begins Thursday against the Panthers. Coach John Tortorella said it started against the Maple Leafs.
The game was the preseason finale, but with both teams dressing squads close to what will be featured opening night, Tortorella said it was more.
"We needed to challenge them to play better to feel good about themselves," he said.
"We wanted to get off on the right foot to start the season," said defenseman Jassen Cullimore, who scored with assists by Fredrik Modin and Martin St. Louis. "It is a preseason game but it was a positive for us."
OTTAWA STORIES: For Rumble and left wing Andre Roy, playing in the Corel Center is always special. Rumble was an original member of the Senators from 1992-94. Roy was a fan favorite from 1999-2001.
As the Lightning's bus pulled out of the arena parking lot after Friday's 5-1 loss, a woman held up a sign professing her love.
"It's always special to know the people appreciated me," said Roy, acquired in March for Juha Ylonen.
The trade hit Roy hard, but he said, "I'm happy to be with Tampa Bay. I still have some friends over there, but when the puck drops, I'm here to make sure we win the hockey game."
Ottawa was the NHL's worst team while Rumble was there.
"We couldn't score any goals," said Rumble, who was minus-74 in two seasons, including minus-50 in 1993-94. "As soon as a team scored, we were done."
ODDS AND ENDS: Special teams faired well in the preseason, considering they were given little practice time. The power play worked at 18 percent efficiency (11-for-61). The penalty kill worked at 89.7 percent (52-for-58). ... The Lightning was off Sunday. It practices at 11 a.m. today at the St. Pete Times Forum. Workouts are closed.