tampabay.com

Veteran goalie Burke is prepared for trip to minors

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published September 19, 2006


BRANDON - The Lightning is set on Johan Holmqvist as the backup goaltender to Marc Denis, a decision that means that barring something unexpected, Sean Burke, a 17-year veteran and three-time All-Star, likely will start the season assigned to AHL Springfield.

"Marc came in who we expected to be our No. 1 goaltender with Holmqvist as his backup pushing him," general manager Jay Feaster said. "So far in camp, nothing has changed our plans."

The writing was on the wall in June when Tampa Bay signed Holmqvist, Sweden's top goalie, to a $600,000 contract.

Burke said last month that he wanted to compete for the job. But back spasms have limited him to one practice, and Holmqvist has been solid in three scrimmages.

The Lightning could trade Burke, though that is unlikely given his $1.6-million salary. He could stick if Denis or Holmqvist is injured.

More likely, though, and what the Lightning probably is hoping, is a claim for Burke on recall waivers from the minors. In that scenario, the claiming team must pick up half Burke's salary, saving Tampa Bay that amount off its cap number.

Burke said he understands the dynamic.

"I've never felt in this game that anything was owed to me or that I would look at anything as a lack of respect," he said. "It's a business. I signed a two-year contract and I fully intend to fulfill two years.

"If at some point in time that means their plan for those two years is for me not to be here, that's a decision to be made and I'll deal with it then."

Burke, 39, practiced for the first time Monday at the Ice Sports Forum. He also did conditioning drills and joked he hoped he would be able to walk this morning.

He said his situation will not change his approach to training camp.

"The joy for me is coming to the rink and playing the game," Burke said. "I want to handle whatever situation with as much class as I can and just be genuine about it."

Burke, 14-10-4 in 35 games last season with a 2.80 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage, said he wants to play and recalled his situation with the Coyotes before the 2000-01 season.

"I wasn't signed until training camp started and I thought that might be it," he said. "I was quite content to walk away from the game. But I played in two All-Star Games after that.

"That's still the way I look at the game. Because today somebody said I might be going to the minors, it doesn't mean that halfway through I can't be in the All-Star Game."

CUTS TODAY: Coach John Tortorella said he could make as many as 25 cuts as training camp is reduced from 56 players to between 31 and 34.

He said the remaining players, minus those injured, will travel to Washington and Detroit for games Wednesday and Friday.

SCRIMMAGES: Holmqvist stopped 21 of 22 shots and Dmitry Afanasenkov had a hat trick during the Black team's 6-1 victory over the Red. Marty St. Louis had two goals and Brad Richards three assists. ... Nikita Alexeev had two goals and an assist and Ryan Craig had a goal and two assists in the Blue's 4-3 shootout victory over the White.

LINING UP: Alexeev and St. Louis lead camp with four goals and Alexeev leads with eight points.

"Give him credit," Tortorella said. "He's played very well. I think he's prepared himself for this camp very well. To me, that's the most important notion in my head."

Tortorella said he has been similarly impressed with Alexeev's linemates, Craig and center Andreas Karlsson, and said they earned a chance to play together in an exhibition game.

The line picked up seven points against the White line of Vinny Lecavalier, Vinny Prospal and Eric Healey.

"I thought they fed it to Vinny's line," Tortorella said. "I thought they had a really good day."

INJURIES: Left wing Ruslan Fedotenko, recovering from left hip surgery, sat out a third day of scrimmages. ... Defenseman Paul Ranger (bruised foot) sat out a second straight day. ... Left wing Darren Reid (groin) practiced but did not play.