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Lightning targets tradition of New Year's Eve at home

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


TAMPA -- The NHL schedule has not been released, but Lightning fans probably can mark Dec. 31 as a home game. If the team has its way, they can make it an annual event.

Lightning president Ron Campbell said Wednesday that Tampa Bay has applied to the league for a permanent home date on New Year's Eve.

"Our goal is to identify some traditional dates that people can can say, "You know what? I know they're going to play on that date, and it's a great night out, and it's a lot of fun,'" Campbell said.

He said the game would keep the usual 7:30 p.m. starting time, "so people can get done, and they get their options."

Campbell said one option would be to stick around the Ice Palace, which would keep its restaurant open for a midnight celebration. Campbell said other stadium rooms and the outside plaza also could be opened for gatherings.

"Our goal would be to create a festive atmosphere," Campbell said. "A good, safe place, an enjoyable place, a place families can be together. The main thing is to try and build a tradition. We hope to promote it well and have a great time."

CONTRACTS: Teams must make qualifying offers to their restricted free agents by Friday to reserve the right to match any offers and receive compensation should those players sign with another team.

Tampa Bay's restricted free agents are goaltender Dan Cloutier; forwards Fredrik Modin, Todd Warriner, Dwayne Hay, Brian Holzinger, Ryan Johnson, Steve Martins, Robert Petrovicky and Wayne Primeau, and defensemen Andrei Skopintsev, Kaspars Astashenko, Pavel Kubina, Andrei Zyuzin and Bryan Muir.

Petrovicky and Skopintsev probably will not get offers. Minor-league goaltender Tim Thomas and center Xavier Delisle probably won't, either. MORE CONTRACTS: Assistant general manager Jay Feaster said the team has picked up the option on center Stan Drulia's contract. The 32-year-old had 11 goals and 22 assists in 68 games last season. He will make about $200,000.

Feaster also said that right wing Dan Kesa was signed to a one-year contract before the expansion draft.

The deal allowed the Lightning to expose Kesa and protect another player. Feaster said Kesa, 28, who had four goals and 10 assists in 50 games before being sent to the IHL's Detroit Vipers, will provide minor-league depth.

"And he can play in the (NHL)," Feaster said. "If we're in January and all of a sudden we have guys going down and we're playing every other night and we're saying, "Geez, we need somebody who knows what they're doing and can step in right now,' we know Kesa can."

AND EVEN MORE: Feaster said the Lightning will try to sign draft picks Alexander Kharitonov and Thomas Ziegler before July15. If the players don't sign, they will be obligated to the European clubs with which they have contracts.

General manager Rick Dudley has said that Kharitonov, 24, a Russian left wing, and Ziegler, 22, a Swiss center, could challenge for spots with the Lightning.

ODDS AND ENDS: Feaster said that Jocko Cayer, the only equipment manager the Lightning has had, left the team. Ray Thill will take over. ... Feaster said that Zyuzin (shoulder) and defenseman Sergey Gusev (knee) will be ready for training camp.

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