tampabay.com

Richards deflects free agent talk

By TOM JONES and JOANNE KORTH
Published April 23, 2006


OTTAWA - The buzz around the NHL is whether the Lightning will have the cap room to re-sign center Brad Richards, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. On Saturday, Richards was asked if he expected to get an offer sheet from another team.

"I have no idea," he said. "(That's the) furthest thing from my mind right now. I don't think it's fair to my teammates or this organization to start commenting on anything like that. That's way too far out."

Richards, however, said he expected to remain with the Lightning.

"They've made it clear that they're going to sign me, want to sign me," Richards said. "Until the negotiations start, you can't say. (General manager Jay Feaster) has talked to me personally and said it in front of the team that he intends to sign me. I want to be in Tampa."

ADDING SPICE: After notching a win in his first career playoff game, Senators goalie Ray Emery spent almost as much time Saturday talking about his 35 saves on the ice as his much-publicized antics off it.

Almost.

Emery has made headlines in Ottawa for everything from his flamboyant wardrobe to his odd culinary choices. Not long ago, he ate a dead cockroach to collect $500 from teammates.

"I don't think the guys see me as a distraction," said Emery, the Senators' starter since Dominik Hasek was injured during the Olympics. "In the media, I get a lot of attention for certain things, and that becomes a distraction."

So is Emery maturing?

"I'm sure he could eat a cockroach next year if we offer him $500," forward Jason Spezza said. "Just getting more mature, more experienced doesn't mean you're not going to do certain things."

INJURY UPDATE: Forward Rob DiMaio did not play in Game 1 but participated in the pregame warmup. That suggests one of the Lightning forwards had doubts about whether he could play. The guess is Vinny Prospal, who sat out the regular-season finale with an "upper-body injury."

When asked, Prospal smiled and said, "You can figure it out." He is expected to play tonight.

Meantime, defenseman Nolan Pratt missed a few minutes of practice after taking a Vinny Lecavalier slap shot off the leg during a power-play drill. Pratt said his leg was stiff but he would be fine.

MISCELLANY: Lecavalier got a visit before practice from Ottawa native and former NHL goalie Fred Brathwaite, who played with Lecavalier for Ak Bars Kazan in the Russian league during the lockout. By the way, Kazan won the Russian championship last week, a year after a Kazan team full of NHL stars (including Lecavalier, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley and Nikolai Khabibulin) was eliminated in the first round. ... Hasek spent Game 1 behind the bench in sweats. "He won't be there again," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Sun. "(Injured) players shouldn't be there."