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AHL coach talks up youngster Picard
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published March 2, 2008
RALEIGH, N.C. - Craig Berube said the Lightning might have gotten a gem in defenseman Alex Picard, acquired from the Flyers in the Vinny Prospal trade.
"He was definitely a very important player for us," said Berube, coach of AHL Philadelphia, where Picard was playing. "He was out there in every situation. From what I've seen on this team, he was the best there was."
In two games for the Lightning entering Saturday, Picard, 22, was hard to miss. He took over for Brad Richards on the point of the power play. He scored a power-play goal when he ventured deep into the offensive zone, averaged 15:07 of ice time and had seven hits.
"I like him," coach John Tortorella said. "We got some good reports from some pretty good people from other teams when we made that deal that he was one of the top three or four defensemen in the American Hockey League. He's going to play. We're going to put him in tons of spots here and see what we have."
Picard, 6 feet 2, 220 pounds, had eight goals and 38 points in 53 games and was the Phantoms' second-leading scorer. Still, he was minus-8, and Picard agreed he needs work on his ice awareness and defensive positioning.
But there is no doubting his offensive instincts as he had a five-assist game against the Devils in 2006-07, when he played 62 games for the Flyers.
"It was just one of those nights," he said. "I just kept it simple, got the puck on net and good things happened."
"There's always a lot of work to be done with a young defenseman," Berube said. "But if you can get to the point where he's good defensively, you're going to have a very good National Hockey League player."
THREE AND COUNTING:Michel Ouellet entered Saturday with goals in three straight games and a lot more confidence.
"It's good," said the right wing, who has 10 goals this season and assisted on Jeff Halpern's goal against the Hurricanes. "When you're going through the tough times, you're always thinking, 'What am I not doing well?' Now, I'm not thinking at all."
"He's getting to more pucks," Tortorella said. "He still needs to be consistent on his battles in all areas of the ice, but he's better. That's the common denominator when he's playing well, he's getting the puck so he can shoot more."
ODDS AND ENDS: Dan Boyle's goal Friday was his 66th for the Lightning, a team record for defensemen. ... Defenseman Filip Kuba knee was scratched.