By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001
When Canada finishes its off-day practices at the World Championships, Vinny Lecavalier still has about 20 minutes of work to do.
The Lightning captain stays on the ice with assistant coach Guy Carbonneau, who is helping Lecavalier learn the fine art of the faceoff.
"He was one of the best faceoff guys in the NHL," Lecavalier said from Hanover, Germany, where Canada is playing its qualifying-round games. "He's showing me the little tricks I need to improve."
Lecavalier had a rough season in the faceoff circle, winning just 44.9 percent. Fifty percent is considered good.
Through Canada's first four games, all victories, Lecavalier won 53 percent of his faceoffs (19-of-36).
"It's just the little things like how to put your stick and which angle to put it and how to get under (an opponent's) stick," Lecavalier said. "Little things like that I didn't do and didn't know."
Lecavalier had two goals and an assist and was plus-3 in Canada's 4-0 start.
He lost the fingernail on his left pinky after he was slashed Wednesday during Canada's 5-1 thumping of Russia. But Lecavalier said he has not felt this good physically in a while.
"I feel great. I'm skating a lot and playing very well," said Lecavalier, who had a hyperextended elbow, a broken nose and a broken foot last season. "It's been a pretty tough year and a lot of things happened, but right now I'm very happy with the way I'm playing."
And, thanks to Carbonneau, learning.
A LOW-KEY CELEBRATION: Brad Richards got the best present he could have imagined for his 21st birthday on Wednesday: a goal in Canada's victory over Russia. But the Lightning center said there was no other celebration.
"I talked to some people back home, and Vinny and I spent about an hour on the Internet catching up with some news," said Richards, who is rooming with Lecavalier. "Then we just sat and watched TV, and that was it."
Richards said the only English-speaking channels are CNN and MTV. "Our DVD players have been getting a lot of work," Richards said.
NO CHANCE: Ottawa newspapers are speculating the Lightning could be the next stop for center Alexei Yashin, whom the Senators certainly will trade this summer.
The 27-year-old is a bad fit for Tampa Bay.
First, he would cost a bunch in players and money; the potential restricted free agent will seek between $7-million and $10-million a year. But more than that, the Lightning does not need Yashin's selfish petulance.
CULLIMORE APPEARANCE: Defenseman Jassen Cullimore will be at Toona's Sports Grill at 1707 E Busch Blvd. in Tampa from 6-7 p.m. Monday for the Steve Duemig Show on WDAE-AM 620.
JAGR TRADE: Where will Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr end up next season? One rumor has him headed to the Islanders for a package that includes forwards Tim Connolly and Dave Scatchard, defenseman Zdeno Chara and a top draft pick.
But owner Mario Lemieux said, "It's not definite yet that he is going to be gone next year. ... But as you understand, this is a business and we have a budget next year that we have to stick to. If we can't do that, then we are going to make changes."
Until then, Lemieux wants Jagr to pick up his game.
"He's a part of this franchise and he has to give 100 percent when he's playing now and not think about this summer," Lemieux said.
Jagr didn't appreciate the dig.
"I don't think (Mario) should say this kind of stuff," he said. "He should tell me ... but he said it and I respect that. He's just trying to push me to a higher level."
BIG STEP: The Blues breezed through the 1999-2000 regular season and got taken out in the first round of the playoffs.
This season, they struggled with injuries and stretches of poor play, but are looking strong heading into the Western Conference final.
"Last year we really didn't go through any adversity, and then came the playoffs and we lost a couple of games and didn't know how to handle it," defenseman Chris Pronger said. "This year with all the injuries, it helps you realize you've got to improve the way you're playing."
ODDS AND ENDS: The Red Wings will not pick up the $2-million option on center Igor Larionov's contract, but might bring him back at a cheaper salary, the club said. ... Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said he will wait until after the playoffs to decide whether to sign potential unrestricted free agents Rob Blake, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. Colorado also has an option on Ray Bourque.
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.