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Lecavalier, Stillman highlight first day

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

BRANDON - So what are we to make of the pairing of center Vinny Lecavalier and left wing Cory Stillman? Not much both said after Saturday's scrimmage at the Ice Sports Forum.

"It's just the first game," Stillman said.

But when each assisted on the other's goal during the Red's 2-1 victory over the White, it was tough not to notice. Especially when general manager Jay Feaster said scouts who watched "came back raving about the way Vinny and Stillman looked together."

Stillman, acquired from the Blues this summer for a second-round draft pick, played in Vinny Prospal's old position.

"We felt really good," Lecavalier said. "We played well together. He's a very smart player. He has great vision and a lot of talent. I try to skate as fast as I can when he has the puck, and he gave me a couple of really nice passes."

Right wing Nikita Alexeev was a nice complement and had an assist. But coach John Tortorella cautioned not to read too much into a scrimmage.

"Cory Stillman is going to be a very important player for us," Tortorella said. "Where it all settles as far as lines, we have eight exhibition games. That's where we're going to find out a lot about our club."

"It was fun," Stillman said. "Maybe the next day our lines change, but he (Lecavalier) is a great player. Hopefully, I can stay there."

NO BIG DEAL: Nikolai Khabibulin had the crowd oohing and aahing while making 26 saves during the Blue's 4-0 victory over the Black. And Feaster said, "Nik was unbelievable."

The goalie dismissed the praise.

"I didn't even think about it because this is such a meaningless thing," Khabibulin said. "Just getting back in the rhythm and getting some hockey."

Asked when he starts to take things seriously, he said, "Oct. 10," opening night against the Bruins.

FILE IT: The save was lucky, Brian Eklund said, but something he will remember. Eklund was in goal for the White when Lecavalier barreled down left wing on a breakaway.

"I was lucky to get my pad down," said Eklund, who played last season for ECHL Pensacola. "It's a confidence builder. It makes me feel good. That's what I take out of it."

ODDS AND ENDS: Right wing Ben Clymer had a goal and two assists and center Alexander Svitov had two goals for the Blue. ... Right wing Eero Somervuori played well for the Red, hit a few people, including Martin St. Louis, and showed good defensive awareness. ... Scrimmages are at 10 a.m. today.

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