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By DAMIAN CRISTODERO and TOM JONES
Published April 20, 2004

They could sleep till noon.

They could watch television all day.

Or read a book.

Or do nothing.

The Lightning players could do whatever they wanted over the weekend, but they punched a clock again Monday when they practiced for the first time since Friday's series-clinching victory against the Islanders.

"It's nice to have a couple of days off no matter what (job) you do," Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. "It's good to spend two days away from the game with the family or whatever. But at the same time, you're happy to come back to practice and get going again."

While the team - particularly injured players Jassen Cullimore and Cory Stillman - could use the break physically, the rest might have been more important for the Lightning's mental state. After 11 days of postseason intensity, the team finally had a chance to step back from the pressure.

"You need to recharge the battery," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We just got off a tough series. You got to get a couple of days away and relax a little."

Now it must guard against relaxing too much. As of Monday, the Lightning wasn't sure if it was starting the second round on Wednesday or Friday.

Coach John Tortorella said he was preparing as if the team was going to play Wednesday and already has begun scouting three teams.

Playing Friday, the Lightning will go a week without a game, something that never happens during the regular season.

"There are plusses and minuses both ways," Tortorella said. "There's no sense in discussing it because what it is is what it is. What the schedule is going to be and who we're going to play, we have no control over that."

Cullimore out indefinitely

Cullimore's right shoulder is fine. Unfortunately for him and the team, his right wrist is not. When Cullimore was slammed into the boards by Islanders defenseman Roman Hamrlik in Game 3, it was believed he had a right shoulder injury. Turns out, it was his right wrist, which now is in a cast.

Cullimore hasn't played since and doesn't appear as if he will play any time soon. He is listed as out indefinitely.

Meantime, Stillman injured his left hip early in Game 4 and hasn't played since. He is listed as day to day.

Neither skated Monday.

Oh, Canada

With Montreal's Game 7 victory in Boston on Monday, the Lightning found out it would be facing the Canadiens in the second round.

The scrutiny of the playoffs is high anywhere, but in Canada, it is taken to another level.

"I liken it to football down here," Tortorella said. "That's the type of intensity. ... When you talk about Canada, (hockey) is their sport. It will be a great experience for our players."

In his thoughts

Tortorella said he spoke with Devils coach Pat Burns, who announced Sunday that he has been diagnosed with colon cancer. Burns knew of his illness before the postseason but remained behind the bench as the Devils were eliminated by the Flyers in five games.

"That's the definition of Pat Burns; that's just unbelieveable," Tortorella said. "What else can you say? That's who he is."

No announcement has been made whether Burns will step down as coach, but Tortorella said that hardly matters at this point.

"The most important thing," Tortorella said, "is we hope he gets his health back before you even think about talking about hockey."

It's not all about goals

Pavel Kubina always has been honest about how much he likes to score.

And his 17 goals during the regular season tied Ottawa's Wade Redden for the league lead among defensemen.

So when Kubina went five games in the East quarterfinals without a goal and with a lone assist, it rang some bells.

"It doesn't matter who is scoring goals," Kubina said. "We have other guys who can score.

"I'm taking care of my zone. I'm trying to do the job over there."

Kubina is doing it well. He is second among Lightning defensemen in the playoffs with an average 22:16 of ice time, and he is plus-1.

Tortorella said Kubina was consistent against the Islanders and did not taken himself out of his game by looking too hard to score.

"You can't always judge him on points," Tortorella said. "He's done some good things in our end zone."

Kubina admitted he had scoring chances.

"I didn't bury them," Kubina said. "But I'm happy the way things are right now. It's a special time of year. I'm just trying to win all my battles."

Quotable

"I feel good. You always feel a lot better when you're winning. The bruises aren't so bad when you're winning."

- Martin St. Louis

[Last modified April 20, 2004, 01:20:37]

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