Sale proceeding well, Bettman says

Published November 1, 2007

NEWARK, N.J. - After meeting with him Wednesday in New York, Lightning team president Ron Campbell said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told him the sale of the team appears ahead of schedule.

Campbell attended Wednesday's game in New Jersey to take in the Devils' new $375-million arena, the Prudential Center.

Earlier in the day, Campbell met with Bettman at the league offices and received an update on the sale of the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 51/2 acres of adjoining land from Palace Sports & Entertainment to Absolute Hockey Enterprises. Campbell said he still anticipates the deal would be completed by the Dec. 31 deadline.

"Like every major transaction, it always takes longer than we really thought," Campbell said. "This timetable is not surprising us at all. Gary was pleasantly surprised to hear where they were in the process and that it was further along than even he anticipated."

More Campbell: The Lightning remains in talks to open next season in Prague, Czech Republic, against the Penguins, he said.

MATCHING UP: With the return of Dan Boyle from a freak wrist injury and the pace of games becoming more frenetic, coach John Tortorella created new defensive pairings before the game.

The highlight is Tortorella feels comfortable enough with 22-year-old rookie Mike Lundin to match him with 24-year-old Shane O'Brien.

"We're not afraid of two youngsters together because we think Lundin is a guy who is mature," Tortorella said. "The way he reads the game, we're going to try it."

In the past week, Lundin has been stealing minutes from struggling veteran Brad Lukowich, whom Tortorella paired with Boyle and moved to the left side. He hopes it helps Lukowich, who returned to the Lightning in the offseason, break out of a funk. Lukowich fell to minus-10 after being minus-3 on Wednesday.

Filip Kuba and Paul Ranger was the other pairing.

ROAD WARRIORS: If there's any team that knows about playing on the road, it's the Devils, against whom the Lightning failed to earn its first road win.

New Jersey opened the season with nine road games, going 3-5-1 before facing Ottawa on Saturday to open the Prudential Center.

"It's tough," goalie Martin Brodeur said. "It's all about work ethic and believing the bounces will go your side. It's tougher on the road to get those bounces. For us, we're at the stage where we just want to play well and know that everything will fall into place.

"It's about not beating ourselves and forcing the other team to beat you. That's how you get out of a slump."

ODDS AND ENDS: Defensemen Doug Janik and Matt Smaby and forward Andreas Karlsson were healthy scratches for the Lightning. ... According to Tortorella's count, the Lightning had just seven scoring chances Monday against the Rangers.

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@tampabay.com.