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High profile: Martin St. Louis

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 10, 2003

LEG MAN

There is no question where St. Louis, 27, gets his speed: a pair of thighs that look like they belong to a soccer player. So when the Laval, Quebec, native broke his right leg last season, short-circuiting a breakout season, he knew what was ahead.

"I had worked hard to be where I was," he said. "I would have to start from scratch again."

That meant an arduous rehab regimen that featured days in which he hopped on his injured leg up the 20 or so rows of stands at the University of Vermont's stadium.

"I got stronger every week," St. Louis said.

And when this season's training camp began, he was better than ever, stronger than ever and, most important, faster than ever."

How fast? Listen to the crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum roar when he picks up the puck and starts chugging through the neutral zone.

IT'S ALL IN THE WRISTS

St. Louis said he doesn't do anything special to practice breakaways. But anyone who has watched him since he came to the Lightning knows his repertoire of moves has increased. His best is the one in which he goes full speed toward the goal, pulls up at the last second and dekes the puck around the goalie.

St. Louis said he hasn't added any moves. He just doesn't feel as inhibited.

"I feel more comfortable confidence-wise," he said. "You get to the NHL, and you're nervous about trying things. With experience, you're not as afraid of being creative."

As for scoring on a breakaway, "Yeah, it's a good feeling," St. Louis said. "But scoring any goal is a good feeling."

IT'S ALL IN HIS HEAD

From the moment St. Louis broke his leg, he began to think how the injury would affect his game. Instead of brooding, he decided almost on the spot he would come back better than he was before.

"I knew if I worked hard, I would be able to get that back," he said.

That kind of determination also was evident after St. Louis signed a two-year, $2.5-million contract last summer after playing the previous season for $290,000. Instead of thinking, "I made it," St. Louis figured he had to prove to the Lightning and the fans he was worthy of a deal that paid him $1-million this season.

With career highs in goals, assists and points, he made a pretty good case.

RESUME

-- A three-year All-American at the University of Vermont and three-year finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top NCAA player. n Vermont's all-time leader with 176 assists and 267 points.

-- Signed by the Flames as a free agent in February 1998.

-- Signed by the Lightning as a free agent in July 2000.

-- NHL all-star in 2003.

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