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Lightning owners might turn profit

By Times Staff Writer
Published May 20, 2004

Complete Lightning coverage

Nothing like a little success to help one's bottom line.

Lightning president Ron Campbell said Wednesday the Tampa operation of Lightning owner Palace Sports & Entertainment could show about a $2-million cash profit for the fiscal year ending June 30 if the team advances to the Stanley Cup final.

As it stands now, Campbell said Palace Sports is "flirting with breaking even."

Previously, the company said it had lost $50-million since buying the team and the St. Pete Times Forum lease in June 1999 and projected it would lose $10-million through the regular season.

Campbell also said sales of season tickets and equivalents for next season (a 12-pack, for example, is worth a seventh of a season ticket) are at about 10,000. That is 2,000 below the goal but 500 more than this season.

"We're ecstatic," Campbell said. "We're very excited about the summer and what we're going to do."

Campbell acknowledged long-term challenges.

There is the pending decision on a county property tax assessment that could cost the team millions, the projected $13-million Campbell said Palace Sports will have to add to this season's $33-million payroll to keep the team intact and a looming lockout. For now, though, Campbell said the team is most important.

"Everything we're focused on is winning," he said. "No one was weeping when we swept Montreal because we missed a game or two at home. It truly is that we're battling for the best trophy in all of sports. We're not counting beans. We're not counting anything. We're trying to build this for the long term."

Role reversal

For all the talk before the East final about the Flyers' power play, Tampa Bay's has been at the forefront. After a 3-for-4 effort in Game 5, the Lightning is clicking at 30.4 percent (7-for-23).

"We're getting a little bit better and closer every day," said associate coach Craig Ramsay, who runs the special teams. "It's just getting back to basics, having some patience and getting some point shots. You just keep pushing on it and the players keep trying."

The Flyers are 1-for-23 after entering the series at a playoff-high 20 percent.

"I don't think it's technical," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It's more execution. We're not moving the puck well."

"It's desperation," left wing Mark Recchi said. "We have to be more desperate than we've been. No. 2 is really keeping things simple. We really have to look at this hard. We had a four-on-three opportunity in the first period (of Game 5) and didn't even get a shot. Those are opportunities that you've got to take advantage of. You've got to make the other team feel like they can't take penalties, and right now, we aren't doing that."

The Lightning was rewarded in Game 5 for good work. Vinny Lecavalier's faceoff win in the Flyers zone set up Brad Richards' second power-play goal. Dan Boyle's point shot set up Ruslan Fedotenko's rebound goal, and Dave Andreychuk's juke and drop pass to Darryl Sydor at the point got the power play set up and led to Fedotenko's goal.

Still, Ramsay said, it's not all skill.

"When you suddenly get that many pucks to go into the net, it's lucky," he said.

It's in their hands

The way the Flyers see it, they cannot let the Lightning dictate the pace as it did in the first period of Game 5.

"I think we're over part of the disappointment, but we're a little mad at ourselves, to be honest with you," Hitchcock said. "The feeling we had was we allowed them to set the tempo early. Their sense of desperation was a little bit stronger than ours."

But Hitchcock would not discredit Tampa Bay for relying on goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to bail it out of a third period in which it was outshot 15-6.

"Desperation at the start and their goalie has held them together at the end. That's what makes a team," he said. "For us to win, we have to outwork the goaltender. We can't live on the fact of scoring chances, of zone time. You cannot live on missed opportunities."

Barber takes the high road

No one would blame Bill Barberfor taking a few shots at the Flyers. The Lightning's director of player personnel was fired as Philadelphia's coach after the 2001-02 season in the wake of a revolt by some players, including captain Keith Primeau. That was four months after Barber lost his wife to lung cancer and a year after winning the Adams Trophy as coach of the year.

The firing ended a 30-year association with the Flyers, for whom Barber had a hall of fame career as a player. But Barber said he is not looking back.

"I'm the past," he said. "In a series like this, it's not about me. It's about the players who are playing the game. They're the ones who deserve to be written about."

Asked about the way his relationship with the Flyers ended, Barber said, "I'm not going to say I'm a bitter person for what happened. I worked 30 years with the Flyers and am proud to say that. I had a great run and was loyal. Things didn't work out at the end, and my time came and went. It was time to move on."

Take a closer look

Very quietly, Fedotenko is putting together a solid postseason. With six goals in 14 games, the Lightning wing is on pace (if applied to an 82-game regular season) to score 31. This after scoring 17 in 77 regular-season games.

"I don't know," he said. "I guess I'm trying to do the same thing I did before, working harder and doing the simple things."

Actually, Fedotenko is getting results in the toughest aspect of the game: getting to the net. He was there in Game 5 during a first-period power play and popped in Boyle's rebound. It is even more noticeable because getting to the net is something not many Lightning players do with regularity.

"Maybe it's the playoffs," Fedotenko said. "Everybody is trying to keep it simpler. If they have a shot, they're taking a shot and somebody is in front looking for a tip-in or a rebound."

Nerves not only for the young

Most of the Lightning's young players are trying not to think about the implications of tonight's game, in which a victory sends Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup final. A certain older player is trying to do the same, though it's tough. No active player has competed in more regular-season games than Andreychuk's 1,597 without reaching the final.

"Obviously, you have to try to stay focused on the task at hand," said Andreychuk, who is playing in the conference final for the fourth time in 22 seasons. I'm still just as nervous as some of those young guys realizing how important the game is."

[Last modified May 20, 2004, 01:02:41]

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