tampabay.com

Game fuels bad blood with Florida

By TOM JONES
Published October 3, 2005


SUNRISE - The Lightning played its final preseason game against the Panthers Sunday.

It might have been the last preseason game ever against the Panthers.

"As far as I'm concerned this is the last time we'll play here," general manager Jay Feaster said.

When Sunday's game was scheduled over the summer, the Lightning was under the impression the regular season would open Saturday. Instead, the regular season begins Wednesday. Feaster said he never would have scheduled a preseason game four days before the season opener.

In the NHL, teams - not the league - schedule preseason games.

Feaster asked the Panthers and general manager Mike Keenan to either move the game or cancel it, but the Panthers refused.

"We moved heaven, earth, mountains and major bodies of water to try to find any way to not have to play (Sunday)," Feaster said, "and there was no cooperation whatsoever by their general manager."

The Lightning first took its complaint to the NHL, but the league ruled against it. Feaster said he then spoke to representatives from other Southeast Division teams (Atlanta, Carolina and Washington) and said all were willing to move schedules around to help every team get the same number of games and make sure the Lightning wasn't playing so close to the regular season. But the Panthers still refused.

Keenan declined comment, but pointed out there were five other preseason games Sunday. Feaster said he was told the Panthers had problems with building availability. It also should be noted that if Sunday's game had been canceled, the Panthers would have played only one game in 11 days before the season opener.

Regardless of the Panthers' reasoning, Feaster said he has no interest in scheduling Florida in future preseasons.

"We'll find other teams to play in the preseason," Feaster said.

ANOTHER DUD: The Lightning played like it had no interest in participating in Sunday's game. For the second straight game, they were flat and lost 4-0 in front of 15,307 at the Bank Atlantic Center.

The result raises some concern because the Lightning used its full lineup, was coming off an uninspired 5-2 loss to Carolina on Friday and opens the regular season on Wednesday.

MR. ROGERS DEADLINE: The Lightning has a deadline of 5 p.m. today to sign defenseman Andy Rogers or return him to his junior team. Rogers is vying with Timo Helbling for the sixth defenseman's opening.

Feaster, who said salary-cap issues for next season are making negotiations difficult, said the sides will talk again today.

MISCELLANY: The NHL is considering having goalies wear a slightly different jersey than the rest of the team, like soccer goalies do. It isn't known if the jerseys will be ready for the regular season, but Lightning goalie John Grahame wore a different jersey Sunday. ... In the shootout after the game, the Lightning won 2-0. Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis scored.