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Lecavalier, 21, on top of the Worlds

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


Has all work and no play made Vinny Lecavalier a dull boy?

Yes, Lecavalier spent his 21st birthday (April 21) at a boarding school in the woods an hour outside Helsinki, Finland, where Team Canada stayed while it practiced for the World Championships.

And, yes, the big excitement was the singing of Happy Birthday by his teammates, including Tampa Bay's Brad Richards.

But Lecavalier said the 90-minute daily workouts and constant team meetings have continued an up-tick in his game that started at the end of last season.

"It's been great," Lecavalier said from Hanover, Germany, where Canada will play its three first-round games. "Me and Brad have been playing together and had two good (practice) games."

Lecavalier said playing on a larger ice surface means the game is faster and slower at the same time. Faster because speed and skill are stressed. Slower because the larger ice means players aren't crammed together as in the NHL.

Lecavalier and Richards took advantage Saturday with goals in Canada's 5-0 victory over Norway.

"There is so much time to make a play," he said, adding that the confidence gained by making those plays should carry over to next season.

The tight schedule has left little time for sightseeing. Lecavalier said the team did not even see Helsinki. And Stockholm, where Canada played a practice game against Sweden, was a blur.

Lecavalier said he spent a few minutes speaking to Lightning teammate Fredrik Modin, who plays for Sweden. But he sees this as a business trip.

"Obviously, the main goal is to win the games," Lecavalier said. "Every team that plays Team Canada is motivated to beat us."

JOB CHANGE: The Lightning asked associate coach John Torchetti to become a pro scout. That would leave only coach John Tortorella and associate coach Craig Ramsay behind the bench, with Ramsay assuming most special-teams duties.

The move, if completed, will mean the coaching staff brought in by Palace Sports & Entertainment when it bought the team in the summer of 1999 -- Torchetti, coach Steve Ludzik and assistants John Cullen and Brad Shaw -- will have been replaced.

ALEXEEV AN ALL-STAR: Lightning prospect Nikita Alexeev was named an Ontario Hockey League third-team all-star. The right wing, who recently signed a three-year deal, had 31 goals and 41 assists in 64 games with the Erie Otters.

Windsor's Jason Spezza, the top prospect in June's draft, also was named third team.

BLINDERS: Senators general manager Marshall Johnston said he will not toughen up his team with an eye toward the rough-and-tumble playoffs. He said the smallish Ottawa market demands the Senators play an up-tempo squad to keep fans interested.

The Maple Leafs roughed up the Senators in their four-game, first-round sweep, but Johnston said that creates a false argument.

"I don't think an 82-game schedule is a walk in the park and we seem to handle that well," he said. "Yes, we have to improve, but to go in the direction you suggest, that's not necessarily going to bring winning hockey or entertaining hockey."

As for personnel changes, don't expect many. Even coach Jacques Martin likely will be back.

"We have a good group of core players here, and just because they don't play well, you don't kick them out of the house," Johnston said. "I've had arguments with my daughters, but they're still my daughters."

BY THE WAY: Ottawa's Alexei Yashin has one point -- an assist -- in his last eight playoff games, all Ottawa losses.

ETC.: Mario Lemieux on possibly trading Jaromir Jagr: "It's not definite he's going to be gone next season." ... Don't believe rumors about Detroit's Sergei Fedorov being on the block. With a $6.3-million salary (thanks to a $4-million bonus), teams will have to come up with too much cash and too many players. ... The Wings' top priority is retaining unrestricted free agent Martin Lapointe.

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

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