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Team will stay together and relax

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 24, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rest, relaxation and team bonding. Those are the Lightning's goals for three days in Atlantic City.

With no games scheduled until Wednesday at Buffalo and coach John Tortorella trying to limit travel, a diversion to the Jersey shore took shape.

"We do enough going up and down the East Coast," Tortorella said before Saturday's game against the Devils. "We don't need to race home for a day and a half and come back up. It's a perfect fit, a perfect time of the year to get together as a group."

The team made the two-hour bus ride after the game. The players are off today. They practice Monday and Tuesday before flying to Buffalo on Tuesday afternoon.

"It allows the guys to be with one another," Tortorella said. "It's important. A big part of trying to win as a team is doing things off the ice to build the camaraderie. ... You've got to respect them and trust them to do things outside the locker room."

Center Brad Richards said the team is close.

"It's two nights to relax and have fun and let loose a little bit in a reasonable way," he said. "It's not like we need this. It's a bonus to build us up even more."

DEVILISHLY CLEVER: The Devils are not the same plodding, grind-it-out team of Stanley Cup years past. With the loss of centers Bobby Holik and Jason Arnott and the addition of defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky, New Jersey is smaller but quicker.

Tortorella said the Devils may be better.

"You can get caught up in the old way of thinking of what teams are about because of the name," he said.

"This is a smaller team, almost a more dangerous team with their speed."

The key, the coach said, is Tverdovsky and fellow defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski. He called them the "three scooters."

"They don't wait, they lead," Tortorella said. "Any turnover and they're up the ice."

HOLZINGER RETURNS: New Jersey's speed, as well as the continued absence of left wing Fredrik Modin because of a bruised rib, got forward Brian Holzinger into the lineup. It was his first game since Jan. 4.

Holzinger, 30, played 23 games last season and missed the final 42 with a shoulder injury. He broke his left leg during a pickup game before training camp. He was cleared to play last weekend.

ODDS AND ENDS: Defenseman Brad Lukowich will be away from the team until Wednesday because of a death in his family. ... Defenseman Pavel Kubina returned to the lineup after a one-game scratch. ... Left wing Chris Dingman and right wing Jimmie Olvestad were healthy scratches.


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