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Fitzpatrick bolsters Vipers' goaltending

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001


The IHL's Detroit Vipers have brought in free agent and former Lightning goaltender Mark Fitzpatrick on a tryout contract.

Lightning general manager Rick Dudley said Sunday that the 32-year-old has been signed to provide depth for the Vipers, a Lightning affiliate. Detroit was left with only 19-year-old Evgeny Konstantinov in net when Dieter Kochan was called up by the Lightning on Friday to replace traded Dan Cloutier.

That doesn't mean Fitzpatrick will stay in Detroit.

"The understanding going in is he wants to get back to the NHL," Dudley said. "If that happens to be out of necessity for us, that's fine."

In other words, if Kochan does not work out as Kevin Weekes' full-time backup, the Lightning has an option. But Dudley stressed that right now he is committed to the 26-year-old Kochan, whom the Lightning signed last season from Binghamton of the United Hockey League.

"We've seen nothing in Dieter Kochan that we don't like, (Saturday) night not withstanding," Dudley said of the Lightning's 6-2 loss to Boston. "That was an almost impossible situation. It's very tough coming in off the bench."

Kochan, in his first game since being recalled, replaced Weekes, who strained his groin late in the second period. Kochan allowed two goals on his first two shots.

Fitzpatrick has played 12 NHL seasons with the Kings, Islanders, Panthers, Lightning, Blackhawks and Hurricanes. He has played 329 games with a 113-136-49 record, a 3.12 goals-against average and eight shutouts.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder played three games for the Hurricanes last season with a 4.49 goals-against average, and 24 games with Cincinnati of the IHL with a 2.57 goals-against average.

Fitzpatrick played 34 games for the Lightning in 1998, going 7-24-1 with a 3.16 goals-against average and a shutout. Dudley coached Fitzpatrick in 1988-89 with the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks.

"He's big, and positionally he's always been very sound," Dudley said. "We brought him there to get some veteran goaltending for Detroit. There's a strength in having him there."

WEEKES IS OKAY: Dudley said it was his understanding that Weekes' injury is not serious and the goaltender should be able to play Tuesday against the Coyotes at the Ice Palace. Weekes is listed as day to day.

STATS: With Boston getting two third-period goals, the Lightning has been outscored 26-3 in the third period and 71-41 overall in its past 13 losses. ... Tampa Bay has lost three straight and 13 of its past 15. ... The Lightning is 0-18-2-0 when trailing after the first period. ... When trailing after two periods, it is 1-25-1-0.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Center Brian Holzinger after Tampa Bay's loss to the Bruins: "We're making the same mistakes over and over. I don't know what it's going to take for us to realize we can't make the same mistakes and win hockey games."

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