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Tough debut for Hodson

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Kevin Hodson knew what he did not do Saturday night -- come up big.

The Lightning goaltender was given a difficult assignment for his first start of the season: face the Devils, one of the hottest teams in the East, at Continental Airlines Arena while trying to preserve Tampa Bay's seven-game unbeaten streak.

He did not get much help from teammates as New Jersey peppered Hodson during a 5-1 victory. And Hodson had some good stops among his 25 saves. But he never came up huge.

"I felt okay," he said. "The only thing that I didn't do is I didn't make any timely saves. When we needed a big save, I didn't make the timely save."

It was a tough critique. Hodson, 30, played in his first regular-season game since Feb. 8, 2000. But it was a fair critique because, as general manager Jay Feaster has often said, Hodson, whose bargain $200,000 contract the Lightning would love to keep on the payroll, is under constant evaluation and must shine when he plays.

Coach John Tortorella said Hodson "was not the reason we lost. There wasn't too much help in front of him. ... I think we get spoiled with our No. 1 goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin. It's tough to compare big saves when you have a guy like that he's playing behind."

When asked to evaluate Hodson, Tortorella said, "When you lose 5-1 and get spanked, I don't think you can be happy about how anybody played."

"Everyone is under evaluation at this level," Hodson said. "That's my situation every time I play and I practice. If you think about that kind of stuff, it will drive you crazy."

Hodson said he was "excited" before the game and didn't mind being thrown into a difficult circumstance.

"In the NHL you should be prepared every day," he said. "You practice hard every day, you should be ready to play."

* * *

EVERYONE ON BOARD: When left wing Chris Dingman scored during Friday's 3-2 victory over the Capitals, every Tampa Bay skater had points except season-long scratches Nolan Pratt and Andre Roy. It was Dingman's first goal since Jan. 21, 2001, for the Avalanche, a span of 64 games.

Feaster said Dingman is "very good at protecting the puck down low and getting it out along the boards."

Dingman said it all is intertwined. "First and foremost (my line) has to get the puck deep and hold on to it for as long as possible," he said. "Good defense is good offense. That's how I explain it."

ODDS AND ENDS: Lightning right wing Sheldon Keefe was a healthy scratch as was Devils and former Lightning defenseman Andrei Zyuzin.


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