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Simple game plan for goalies: Loss equals bench

DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published March 2, 2004

DENVER - Win and you're in. That is the message Lightning coach John Tortorella gave goaltenders Nikolai Khabibulin and John Grahame.

The goalie in net will stay there until he loses.

"For now," Tortorella said. "I'm not sure how long we're going to do that."

He said it is too early to speculate if the system will continue in the playoffs.

"We're going to go about our business, and I'm not going to get into a bunch of dialogue on that," Tortorella said.

After Monday's 3-0 victory over the Avalanche, Khabibulin has won five consecutive games.

"It doesn't really matter," he said. "I don't know if it's a motivational tool or whatever, but it doesn't change the way we approach the game and doesn't change the way we play, so it has no affect whatsoever. I would play the same way if that was not the case."

Grahame, who has won 11 of his past 14 decisions, said the system removes uncertainty.

"You know exactly the situation," he said. "We'll stick with it until we get a little bump, and it's my turn. You can't control it, so you can't worry about it."

"I guess you can say there is less pressure," Khabibulin said. "But I've been in this league for quite a while, so whatever."

ROY RETURNS: After 26 games, Andre Roy played. With right wing Ben Clymer struggling with zero points and seven shots in his past 10 games, Roy, who had not played since Jan.6 in Ottawa, got a chance to prove he belongs in the lineup.

"I feel pressure in the sense I don't want to make a mistake or make something bad happen that will put me back out of the lineup," Roy said before the game. "I'm just going to hit hard and play the way I'm supposed to play.

It is a difficult situation. Roy, who played his 300th NHL game, not only had to transition from practice to game speed, he did it in Denver's thinner air and played 8:08 with 13 shifts and an even plus/minus.

"I'm not saying it's easy when you sit that many games, but that is part of the life of a guy in and out of the lineup," Tortorella said. "I hope he puts the right type of pressure on himself and allows himself to keep it simple.

"He brings personality. I like his personality. When a player sits out a number of games you think the coach doesn't like him. That has nothing to do with the situation at all. It has to do with a team we felt was playing pretty well. But now it might do Benny some good to watch from the outside and we'll give Andre a crack at it."

FORSBERG STAYING PUT: Colorado's Peter Forsberg denied a report out of his native Sweden he signed to play next season for Modo in his hometown Ornskoldsvik.

Forsberg confirmed he likely would play in Sweden if there was a long lockout and said he eventually will finish his career there. But for now, he is committed to the Avalanche.

"They wrote the same thing last year," he said. "One year they're going to be right. One year I'm going to go back.

"It's unfortunate that it comes up like this and it's a distraction for the team. But everybody is here and I can deny it and I'm looking forward to getting back on the ice."

Forsberg missed his seventh straight game with a groin injury.

ODDS AND ENDS: Defenseman Jassen Cullimore missed his third game with a bruised right shoulder. ... Hershey center Eric Perrin, who likely will be called up when rosters expand after the March9 trade deadline, leads the AHL with 45 assists and is tied for the lead with 66 points. ... The Avalanche has sold out a league-record 425 consecutive games. ... Defenseman Darren Rumble was scratched.

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