tampabay.com

Olympic oustings delight Tortorella

By TOM JONES
Published February 23, 2006


TAMPA - Lightning coach John Tortorella is American. Born in Boston, he played college hockey in New England. He is a product of USA Hockey and even has coached Americans in international competitions.

So what was his reaction when the Americans were eliminated from the Olympics on Wednesday?

"I'm happy," Tortorella said. "We're getting our goalie back."

John Grahame, the Lightning and Team USA goalie, will return to Tampa today and be back on the ice with Tampa Bay by the weekend. That sounds good to Tortorella.

"I don't care what people think about it, whether it's against your country or this, that and the other thing," Tortorella said. "That's not in my mind. My mind is with the Tampa Bay Lightning. That's our job at hand here. If we get a player back early, I'm happy about it.

"If I'm a rotten citizen of the USA, then so be it. My job is to coach this team. The quicker these guys get back, the better we're going to be."

As far as Tortorella was concerned, Wednesday was a great day. Canada also was eliminated, meaning forwards Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards and defenseman Dan Boyle are coming home, too. Three players, Sweden's Fredrik Modin and the Czech Republic's Pavel Kubina and Vinny Prospal, remain in Italy as both teams advanced. Meantime, the Lightning's 14 non-Olympians returned to the ice Wednesday after a 10-day break. The team skated hard for about an hour then spent 45 minutes doing off-ice conditioning.

Many players worked out on their own during the break, but judging by the huffing and puffing Wednesday, the workouts could not have been too intense.

"The mind was there (Wednesday), but the legs weren't," veteran Tim Taylor said with a laugh. "And by the end, the mind was gone, too. It was a tough day. But now we have five more days to go at it, and it usually doesn't take that long to get back into it."

Tortorella said he has watched little of the Olympic tournament but is checking daily on one thing:

"Injuries," Tortorella said. "All I do is check each and every day on the injuries."

So far, so good. The five returning home today appeared to have come through the Olympics unscathed. They should get in a practice or two before the Lightning plays Tuesday. The rest of the team, meantime, will continue to spend most of the next five days skating laps.

"We just need to get them back on the ice and not injure them," Tortorella said. "But also on the other side of it, we need to make sure we get our proper conditioning. Until we get our full squad, for this group that hasn't been skating, conditioning is a very important part of it."

Hasek's return unknown

OTTAWA - Senators goalie Dominik Hasek said there's "very little chance" he'll be able to play when the NHL resumes and isn't sure when he'll return from a groin injury. Hasek, 41, was hurt while making a save in the first period of the Czech Republic's Olympic opener. He had surgery to repair a serious groin injury in the summer of 2004.

CANADIENS: Goaltender Jose Theodore won't appeal a December positive drug test. Theodore, on Canada's preliminary Olympic eligibility list, tested positive for propecia, which promotes hair growth but also can be used for muscle growth. He said the NHL granted him an exemption to continue taking the prescription drug.

DEVILS: Lou Lamoriello will remain as coach for the rest of the season, and a permanent coach will be named in the offseason. Lamoriello, also the president and general manager, took over after Larry Robinson resigned Dec.19.

PREDATORS: Center David Legwand was sent to Milwaukee for a conditioning assignment. He hasn't played since knee surgery to repair torn cartilage Dec.12.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.