St. Petersburg Times
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Lecavalier makes last year easy to forget

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002

PITTSBURGH -- As far as Vinny Lecavalier is concerned, last season is a bad memory he wants to forget. The disagreements with coach John Tortorella, the loss of his captaincy, the loss of playing time, they don't matter anymore.

"I don't even want to think about it," he said. "Things are going good, and I want to keep going and help the team."

The center has six goals and seven assists after Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Penguins. He has a four-game points streak and is plus-7. His season best is minus-18.

"Yeah, it's going pretty well," Lecavalier said. "There are no distractions. The only thing I have to worry about is the game I have to play tonight, not what the media is going to ask me about what was going on last year."

Lecavalier has been good -- his diving goal against the Thrashers might be the play of the year -- but he also has been lucky, such as when he took five stitches around his right eye after being high-sticked Oct. 25 against Washington. It could have been worse, but it could have been avoided. Lecavalier, who said he has taken more than 30 stitches around his eyes in his career, is not wearing a visor this season.

"It's probably not the smartest move," he said.

Still, Lecavalier said the visor so distorts his vision and can get so foggy, it is not worth the inconvenience.

Tortorella would not comment on what he termed a personal preference, but added, "The way he's playing right now, I'd leave him alone."

THE TRAVEL EFFECT: No excuses, Tortorella said, but the travel schedule has been "a grind." The Lightning plays nine of its first 13 games on the road and is in the midst of a stretch in which it is away for eight of 10.

Twice the Lightning flew to Tampa for a game before returning to the road.

"When you come back from a trip on a plane -- and it's the first time it's ever happened to me -- an itinerary was handed to us before we got off the plane to get ready for the next trip because you're in town for just a day and a half, it's tough that way," Tortorella said.

THE KEEFE EFFECT: The loss was the first for the Lightning, dating to preseason, in games in which right wing Sheldon Keefe played. Tampa Bay was 11-0-3 in those games.

Keefe, scratched from three of the previous four games, played because right wing Ben Clymer was out with a bruised left foot sustained blocking a shot against the Capitals.

Defenseman Nolan Pratt and left wing Chris Dingman were healthy scratches.

DEFENSIVE PRODUCTION: Through 12 games, Tampa Bay's defensemen have four goals and 27 points. The Lightning did not get its 27th point from a defenseman last season until game No. 29.

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