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Senators' woes worry small-market Flames

By LIGHTNINGH
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

CALGARY -- The revelation the Senators are in serious financial trouble after a refinancing deal fell apart, and that the team missed this week's payroll, was a hot topic Thursday.

Flames president Ken King, whose small-market team also faces financial pressures, was blunt: "This sends a real message out about the sustainability and viability of the Canadian teams and perhaps some American teams.

"It's a real message to all of us that our national pastime is under siege from a pro hockey standpoint, and we can't take it lightly. We've really got to get busy and get this thing looked at."

Lightning left wing Andre Roy, who played two-plus seasons in Ottawa, was "very surprised."

He said he and other Senators bought tickets in an effort to keep the team financially sound. He said community support might have waned because of the team's recent losses in the first round of the playoffs.

"A lot of people got fed up," he said. "People are behind them, and then the playoffs come, and first round, and see ya. Some people just gave up on that."

HOLZINGER'S RETURN: Center Brian Holzinger played his first game since a six-game conditioning assignment at AHL Springfield. Was it a showcase for a player the team would like to trade?

"It's hard to say," Holzinger said. "I guess the amount of ice time I get will determine that."

Holzinger, making $1.25-million, does not have a clear spot on the team. The Lightning does not see him as a wing or a fourth-line checking center, the only spots he can get playing time for now.

"All anybody wants to do is play," Holzinger said. "It's been a while since I played at this level. I just have to keep things simple and do the little things right."

A (SORT OF) HOMECOMING: Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich said he had about 20 family members and friends at the game. Sarich's hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is about six hours east of Calgary. "A lot of people feel that's a long drive, but I don't know anybody that does," Sarich said. "They want some new scenery."

PROSPECT WATCH: Russian center Alexander Polushin, the Lightning's top prospect, is tied for third at the World Junior Championships with seven points on two goals and five assists. The 47th overall pick in 2001 is tied for second at plus-7.

ODDS AND ENDS: Right wing Ben Clymer will miss 1-2 weeks with a strained groin. ... About 1,500 tickets remain for Tuesday's game against the Red Wings at the St. Pete Times Forum. ... Defenseman Darren Rumble and right wing Sheldon Keefe were healthy scratches.

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