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Comfort in familiar faces

Published November 12, 2003

SUNRISE - If you were thinking about taking the Panthers coaching job, would you want your own assistants or could you work with those in place?

Panthers general manager Rick Dudley said he doesn't understand how anyone would not want to work with Steve Ludzik and John Torchetti, though they are Dudley hires and friends.

"Confident people and comfortable people, they want people around with talent and these guys have talent," Dudley said Tuesday. "I cannot imagine somebody not wanting somebody like this."

Torchetti already was on Florida's staff. When Dudley fired Mike Keenan and took over as an interim, he hired Ludzik. Would a new coach see them as assets or Dudley allies?

Dudley, Lightning GM from 1999-2002, admitted he hired Ludzik (whom he fired as Tampa Bay coach in January 2001), in part, to create a comfort level.

"I know what Ludzy can do for me," he said. "I know what John Torchetti can do for me. With those two people in place, I can expedite the process."

Does Dudley see himself as the long-term solution?

"That wasn't my plan," he said. "It never was my plan. But, to be honest with you, the last couple of days have been fun."

LUDZIK'S TAKE: Asked if he was interested in the Panthers job, Ludzik said, "I'm here to help Duds out. That's the bottom line. I don't even want to get into that."

Has he grown as a coach?

"I don't even know how to answer that," he said. "I'm a hard-working guy. I decided to regroup my career when I left Tampa Bay. I could have said, "That's enough.' I didn't. I decided to fight back and do what I had to do, and that's work."

Ludzik had successful stints with OHL Mississauga and AHL San Antonio.

"He was great," said Panthers center Stephen Weiss, who spent the first month of the season with San Antonio. "He taught me a lot. He's really technical, and he played me a ton. He got me back to playing a lot in different situations."

"Ludzy has grown by teaching," Dudley said. "That was good for him. He learned to have a little more patience as a coach."

CONTRACT TALK: Lightning general manager Jay Feaster indicated he wants to begin working to extend the contracts of his coaching staff, all of which are up after this season. But Feaster's contract must be settled first (there is a team option for next season), and that might not happen until at least January.

"It's not imminent," team president Ron Campbell said. "... There's a pecking order of what needs to be done first. We still have other issues to deal with, including our minor-league situation."

Feaster has said he wants a deal with an AHL affiliate done by the end of the year.

ODDS AND ENDS: The winner of the season series between the Lightning and Panthers earns the Florida Cup. The losing team must pay $5,000 to the winning team's charitable foundation. ... Defenseman Jassen Cullimore received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct in the third period for checking Mike Van Ryn from behind into the boards. ... Right wing Ben Clymer, center Alexander Svitov and defenseman Darren Rumble were scratched.

[Last modified November 12, 2003, 01:34:28]

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