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Pumping iron, not swinging his irons
Lightning forward Vinny Prospal sacrificed golf to focus on preparing for the NHL season.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published August 29, 2007
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Times Staff Writer
BRANDON - Vinny Prospal said he has played golf only seven times since the end of the season.
It was a startling admission for someone who always has had such a seemingly insatiable jones for the game. But the Lightning left wing said he has "no time."
Besides, he added, "I'm too tired by the time I get home."
Prospal's priority this summer is to build strength rather than his short game, to gain endurance rather than confidence with his driver.
In short, to start erasing the memory of a horrible season in which his 14 goals were his fewest since 2000-01, his 55 points were down 25 from 2005-06 and his minus-24 rating was tied for the league's 11th worst.
If that meant sacrificing time on the golf course for the weight room or to be on the ice, so be it.
"I changed the way I get ready for the year," Prospal said Tuesday. "I usually take four to six weeks off. This year I took four days."
Prospal, 32, said he takes solace he got better as the season progressed. And with four goals and 22 points after 41 games, things could have been worse.
He also made a splash in the playoffs with a goal and four assists in six games against the Devils. And he was plus-2.
Still, his regular-season drought helped exacerbate Tampa Bay's problems with an offense that counted way too much on Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. And considering Prospal played nearly the entire season with the 100-point scorers, his struggle was even more mysterious - and nerve-racking.
When Prospal heard rumors he was trade bait, he pleaded with coach John Tortorella not to give up on him.
"But you never saw him get down," defenseman Filip Kuba said. "He always tried to battle through it and get better."
"I'm just glad I never gave up," Prospal said. "If I gave up, maybe I wouldn't be sitting here today. That's what makes me kind of proud of myself. I found a way to pick myself up off the ground."
What provided the lift? Prospal isn't sure. Perhaps, he said, he found a rhythm when he began to battle harder defensively and got a few good bounces.
It was a direction Prospal wanted to maintain. So instead of relaxing when he, wife Monika and son Vaclav, 7, vacationed on Marco Island after the season, he hit the workout room.
In his native Czech Republic, he said he immediately got with workout partner and Panthers forward Radek Dvorak.
He already is skating regularly at the Ice Sports Forum, where training camp doesn't start until Sept.13. Tuesday, he slammed a pass from teammate Jan Hlavac past goaltender Marc Denis.
"That's his game," Kuba said. "He's really good with his stick, getting to the puck and making plays."
Prospal is entering a contract season but insisted the issue is not money.
"The first 40 games last season was basically the worst I ever felt," he said. "All I want to do is forget the first half."