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Lightning flop a Blues starter


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- Lightning fans may not place the name, but Bryce Salvador is one that got away.

The 24-year-old defenseman is having a fine rookie season for the Blues. He has two goals, seven assists, is plus-5 and has been paired with Al MacInnis.

St. Louis signed Salvador as a free agent in 1996 and he is so highly regarded that the 6-foot-2, 216-pounder was one of three defensemen not exposed in last summer's expansion draft. The other two: MacInnis and Chris Pronger.

How does the Lightning fit in?

Tampa Bay drafted Salvador in the sixth round of the 1994 draft, but made no attempt to sign him and lost his rights.

"I was 17," Salvador said Thursday before the Blues' 4-1 victory over the Lightning at the Savvis Center. "At that age, it's kind of a guessing game. I guess at 19, they felt I wasn't developing enough to be in the organization."

Salvador's agent told him to consider college football. But he stuck with hockey and caught the Blues' eye during the 1996-97 season in which he had eight goals and 32 assists for Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League.

"He's really come on," Blues coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's having a heck of a year for us. Pairing him with Al really gave him confidence. He plays in all situations, and he's a strong kid that skates.

"It's worked out great," Salvador said. "It's starting off great, and I'm on a winning team."

He also has a 100-mph slap shot.

"I just have to get it on net," he said.

WILD TIME: Lightning general manager Rick Dudley on rookie Marian Gaborik, who leads the Wild with 14 goals:

"We had Gaborik rated No. 1 overall (in last year's draft)," Dudley said. "The kid's a great talent.

"We were hoping we'd win the lottery, and had we won it, he'd be playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning right now."

NOLAN FALLOUT: The NHL gave San Jose's Owen Nolan an 11-game suspension for his Jan. 26 cheap shot to the head of Dallas' Grant Marshall. But many Stars' feelings are frayed.

Things heated up after Nolan said people should re-evaluate Marshall's hit, which led to his retaliatory strike. By most accounts, Marshall tried to hold up before hitting Nolan from behind into the boards.

"I'd like more people to see what he did to me," Nolan said. "I could have broken my neck. Let them see the other half before they form their opinions."

Said Marshall, who broke a neck in 1990 in juniors when hit from behind: "That proves that (Nolan's hit) was premeditated and a gutless play. If they look at the tape, it's obvious I tried to let up on him. And also it wasn't totally from behind. He also turned into me."

HULLUVA GUY: Wing Brett Hull said he isn't worth the $7.5-million option the Stars have on him for next season.

"I'm not that valuable," he said. "I'm realistic that if we're going to get this labor issue resolved, someone has to step up and go.

"Look, as many people are underpaid -- and Bob's going to kill me -- as overpaid."

"Bob" is NHL Players Association president Bob Goodenow. Many are predicting a work stoppage after the 2003-04 season, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.

Hull continued: "You've got to look at things from the owners' aspect and find some middle ground. It can't be that hard to come together.

"The game is good right now. A work stoppage is not going to be good for the game, and they have to do something to prevent it at all costs."

ODDS AND ENDS: It was 25 years ago Wednesday that Darryl Sittler scored 10 points (six goal, four assists) against the Bruins. ... The Mighty Ducks are denying a front-office house cleaning will occur and that former Rangers general manager Neil Smith will replace Pierre Gauthier. ... Carolina goaltender Arturs Irbe was given a day off Thursday against the Kings after 40 consecutive starts. ... Washington wing Peter Bondra was asked to play in the All-Star Game after Jaromir Jagr bowed out. Bondra declined because he had plans to take his family to Florida. ... The Red Wings demoted second-year defenseman Jiri Fischer to the minors so it wouldn't lose Max Kuznetsov to waivers. ... Former Lightning forward Mike Sillinger will be an unrestricted free agent this summer because he is a 10-year veteran who makes less than the league average of $1.4-million. Sillinger wants to stay with the Panthers, but said his agent hasn't been contacted. ... The Senators are looking at Detroit defenseman Steve Duchesne, but Duchesne doesn't want to leave the Red Wings. ... The Maple Leafs seem to be the leaders in the Rob Blake sweepstakes.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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