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Forget sweep, Lightning says

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published May 5, 2004

Brad Richards doesn't want to hear anything about how the Lightning swept four games from the Flyers in the regular season.

The Tampa Bay center reminded that his team lost three of four to the Islanders before vanquishing them from the East quarterfinals in five games. And it split four games with the Canadiens before sweeping them out of the semis.

"So it doesn't matter one bit," Richards said of the matchup against third-seeded Philadelphia in the East final. "They come at you nonstop. They have four good lines. The defense is very good, and they have a good goaltender. Physically and offensively, they get the job done."

The best-of-seven series, which begins Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum, has all kinds of interesting subplots.

Wing Ruslan Fedotenko was acquired from the Flyers in the summer of 2002 in a controversial trade for that year's No. 4 overall draft pick. Goaltenders coach Jeff Reese played for the Lightning when the teams met in the 1996 playoffs, Tampa Bay's first postseason appearance the Flyers won in six games.

General manager Jay Feaster was the president of AHL Hershey when it was a Flyers affiliate. Director of player personnel Bill Barber had a hall of fame career for Philadelphia and coached it for two seasons. And associate coach Craig Ramsay also was a Flyers coach.

But Fedotenko said the past is the past.

"This will be interesting for some Lightning fans because I know the teams met in the playoffs before, and I know that series meant a lot for our fans," he said. "For me, personally, it will be more exciting to play there. But my time with Philadelphia is in the past. We need to approach them like any other team we need to beat to continue."

Lightning players had said it didn't matter if they faced the Flyers or Maple Leafs. But Richards said having an opponent on which to focus is a plus.

Top-seeded Tampa Bay has been in limbo since it finished off the Canadiens on Thursday and has been scrimmaging to try and stay sharp.

"It's nice to know who you're playing," Richards said. "They're well-balance and can come at you a lot of different ways. They seem to be playing like they're on a mission right now."

A physical mission.

"The level is going to be a lot higher, a lot more physical," Richards said. "But it's not going to be anything we haven't seen or aren't used to. We've gone into Philly before and matched their intensity, and we have to do it now."

Just don't talk about the regular-season sweep.

"We are not at all expecting an easy series," Fedotenko said.

Said Feaster: "The regular season doesn't mean anything to us. Right now, they are a totally different team."

[Last modified May 5, 2004, 01:00:41]

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