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Slapshots

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 11, 2003

Bad blood between opposing rookies

Brian Sutherby's memory is long, and every time the Capitals center faces the Lightning, it gets a good shake. Sutherby has a problem with Lightning center Alexander Svitov.

Sutherby said Svitov spit in his face during the 2001 Junior World Championships. Sutherby, who played for Canada, said it occurred during a scrum in a corner with Russia trailing 5-1. Svitov has repeatedly denied spitting, but Sutherby is adamant.

"I'll never forget about it," Sutherby said. "It showed me a total lack of respect, and he crossed the line in hockey terms."

Sutherby said he "fought the urge" to retaliate. Svitov, through teammate and interpreter Nikita Alexeev, said he is not worried.

"If he does something, I can answer," Svitov said. "If not me, then somebody."

Lighting should have Czeched him, too

The Lightning stopped one Czech, a former Penguin. It couldn't stop another Czech, a former Penguin. While all of the buzz centered on Tampa Bay shutting down Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang sneaked under the radar.

Lang scored the game's first goal late in the first then added one late in the second. Lang scoring big goals, though, should come as no surprise. He's a four-time 20-goal scorer who had a career-high 32 in Pittsburgh in 2000-01. This season, he was fourth on the Caps in goals (22) and second only to Jagr in points with 69.

His two goals Thursday were of goal-scorers variety. Showing good hand-eye coordination, he batted his first goal like it was a baseball past Nikolai Khabibulin. The second was a laser of a wrist shot from 15 feet that went just under the crossbar.

"Robert Lang can score goals," Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said. "He can shoot the puck. It's pure talent."

Dry spell

Martin St. Louis tied Vincent Lecavalier as the Lightning's leading goal scorer with 33 this season. But he has only six since the All-Star break, a span of 30 games dating to Feb. 2. More troubling for the Lightning is he didn't have a shot on goal in Game 1.

St. Louis said he's disappointed in his game, but his coach said he isn't about to push the panic button.

"He just needs to keep trying," John Tortorella said. "Marty is the type of guy who knows where he's at. He knows what he has done in the second half. He just can't be thinking too much. He needs to just continue working on his game. And let's face it. As you go through the year, with the year he has been having, people notice him now. He's no secret. That's something he has to realize, and I believe he does. He's going to get checked, and he's going to have to fight through it."

Lukowich makes early return

Seventeen days after an errant stick broke his right orbital bone, defenseman Brad Lukowich returned wearing a visor. He said the vision in his right eye still is slightly blurry, and if it were the regular season, he probably wouldn't be playing.

"But it's time to suck it up and go play," he said.

"The last month and a half (before the injury), he had improved so much," Tortorella said. "One thing about Luke, he competes. He always does that. We've missed him."

The commissioner pays a visit

Commissioner Gary Bettman attended Thursday's game. He had hoped to meet with Lightning owner Bill Davidson, but Davidson did not attend because of flu-like symptoms. (Then again, any time someone misses a playoff game, it's usually called the flu.)

Bettman, though, did visit with new Tampa mayor Pam Iorio, and their discussion included the Lightning's dispute over an annual $3-million property tax assessment on the St. Pete Times Forum.

"She's energetic, engaging, committed and enthusiastic about her city," Bettman said. "And she knows the issues affecting this team."

One surprised scratch

Defenseman Nolan Pratt said he was surprised and disappointed to be among the team's six scratches. He had been active for all but two games since being scratched for the first 13 regular-season games, recording eight points and a minus-6.

"Obviously, I want to play," said Pratt, who played in three playoff games with Carolina in 1999. "Everybody does this time of year. They have a decision to make, and that's fine. Hopefully, I get a chance to contribute. I think I can."

Defensemen Marc Bergevin, Janne Laukkanen and Darren Rumble and forwards Jimmie Olvestad and Andre Roy also were scratched.

Odds and ends

St. Louis took a puck in the face with 2:59 left in the second. He got 20 stitches under the left eye and returned for the third. ... The Lightning added 12 dehumidifiers to the usual four at the St. Pete Times Forum to help control the moisture and keep the ice fresh.

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