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Sutter targets Leopold

Times staff writers
Published May 29, 2004

It was hidden in an answer to a question about defenseman Andrew Ference, but Calgary coach Darryl Sutter made it clear he is not happy with the play of defenseman Jordan Leopold.

Sutter called Ference, who played 27:02 in game 1 and 25:02 in Game 2, "a small man with a big heart." He also said, "He's playing a lot of minutes because we need Jordan Leopold to play better for us to have a chance to win this series. So I don't know if Jordan hit 20 minutes in either game. We certainly need more than that."

Leopold played 19:38 in Game 1 and 20:53 in Game 2 and was minus-1.

"Everybody has been named at one point in the season," Ference said. "The good thing about our team is when guys have been called out, they have responded."

Right where he wants 'em

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has been good - very good - at rebounding after bad games. Not that Kiprusoff played poorly in a 4-1 loss in Game 2. In fact, Sutter said, "When it's 1-0 going into the third, he's probably kept it a one-goal game."

It's just that in games this season after Kiprusoff has allowed at least four goals, he is 7-0 with a 1.14 goals-against average.

"He recovers. He regroups," Sutter said. "He watches a lot. He works with his goaltending coach a lot and he just stays focused kind of on the moment. He really deals with what is going on really well."

Sore losers

The Flames have garnered the reputation of turning a bit sour at the end of games they are losing. Whether they're trying to send a message for the next game, letting the other team know they aren't going to back down or just losing their cool, the Flames aren't afraid to drop the gloves.

If you can't beat them, beat them up. It happened at the end of Game 2 when the Flames turned nasty. But the Lightning doesn't seem concerned.

"It's part of the game," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "That's a part of playoff hockey. We have no concern about that. That's a non-issue."

But here's an interesting sidebar to that: The Flames are 4-1 in playoff games after they have a fight in the third period.

Two of a kind

The Lightning had an eight-game winning streak earlier in this postseason. It was snapped in Game 2 of the East final against the Flyers. Since then, the Lightning hasn't won two in a row. And it hasn't lost two in a row either. Starting with the first game of the Flyers series, the Lightning has won every other game.

"It's tough to win two in a row," Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. "For some reason sometimes it's tough to duplicate (intensity and desperation), tough to do it night in and night out."


Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier used to play the game faster than a speeding bullet. These days, though, he's stronger than a locomotive. Lecavalier has picked up his physical play in these playoffs, but it's something Calgary has noticed for a while.

"He has picked up his game a lot," Ference said of the 6-4, 207-pound Lecavalier. "If you look at him from the past couple of years until now, he has come leaps and bounds as far being physical and using his size. When you play with that kind of asset, that's obviously going to elevate his game and make him that much harder to play against."

Leaving his mark

Coming off a physical series against Philadelphia, the Lightning is starting to earn some respect as a team that can hold its own in the corners.

"Hey, they are young guys," Sutter said. "They play hard. You don't win the Eastern Conference by accident. There's some big, strong teams over there that they stared down and shot down. You get into those stereotypes where everybody thinks, "Well, this team is just a fast team or skilled team or skating team.' "

Both teams in the final, Sutter said, are more complex than that.

"I think once you see them play consistently, you know that you are able to play any way the other team wants," he said. "Tampa is certainly capable of that."

Tim Taylor said the team plays better when it gets physical, and that goes for everyone from the 5-foot-8 St. Louis to the 6-foot-4 Lecavalier.

"Because our skill guys are smaller guys, other than Vinny, they naturally think we aren't that physical," Taylor said. "But we can be. You have to adapt somewhat to the competition. If they're physical, you can't allow them to keep pounding away at you."

Face the facts

Has anyone noticed how good Lecavalier has been on faceoffs the past three games? For a player who won a paltry 41.4 percent during the regular season, his 64 percent winning percentage (32-for-50) is extraordinary.

"It seems my whole career has been pretty inconsistent," said Lecavalier, who won 12 of 16 draws in Game 2. "But it's been going pretty well the last three games and that's all I'm looking at. I'm not going to look further back. You've got to be focused and strong on your stick, and you have to learn about who's in front of you."

Check the numbers

Teams winning Game 2 have won the Stanley Cup in 27 of the past 32 seasons. Since the best-of-seven format began in 1939, 49 of 65 clubs winning Game 2 have won the Cup.


"Lots of things." - Calgary defenseman Robyn Regehr on what he doesn't like about Tampa Bay.

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