By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 9, 2001
BRANDON -- John Tortorella wanted it clear he was not making threats. But the coach is determined to follow up on a promise to turn the Lightning into a well-conditioned team.
Tortorella will be watching closely Tuesday and Wednesday at the Ice Sports Forum while players open training camp with two days of fitness testing.
Those who have not adhered to the Lightning's summer fitness program will face the consequences.
"One thing we can control is ice time; whether they play or not," Tortorella said. "We will hold them to that."
Tortorella said the Lightning was, to put it mildly, in need of a Tae-Bo class last season. So when the players scattered for the summer, Tortorella made it clear he expected them to report for camp in top condition.
"We're going to treat our players with respect, but they know because they were told what was expected over the summer," he said. "And we followed up with letters."
Many skated at the Ice Sports Forum last week.
"Most are in good shape, but also there are a few others I'm not so sure of," Tortorella said. "You can't have any preconceived notions. You have to wait and see. But it's not going to take us long to find out who did their work."
That's not a threat, the coach reiterated, "It's just what we expect and what we told them."
WITH OR WITHOUT VINNY: There has been no progress in contract negotiations between the Lightning and Vinny Lecavalier, which means it is almost a lock the 21-year-old captain will be a training camp holdout.
Tortorella said the team can't afford to miss a beat.
"I'm not frustrated. This is part of the business," he said. "We want him to be a big part of this team, but we have no control over it if it doesn't happen. We move right by it, and that's what we have to do. We don't want the distraction."
Tortorella is hoping a resolution can be reached.
"If he misses a day of camp, it's a crime for the kid," he said.
PROVING GROUND: Sheldon Keefe will start camp with the 25-player B squad as penance for refusing a minor-league assignment last season. The A squad will feature Tampa Bay's top 26 players. "My plan is to forget everything that happened and start with a clean slate," the right wing said. "I'm coming here to work hard and show that I belong here."
DRIVE TIME: Minor-league goaltender Evgeny Konstantinov passed his driving test Thursday on his first try. That is noteworthy because the 20-year-old Russian admitted he doesn't read English well. Konstantinov said the license bureau had a Russian version of the written exam.
Konstantinov said there are two big differences between driving in the United States and his native country: There is no right on red in Russia and "the roads are much better here."
ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning invited Jeff Nielsen to camp. The right wing had three goals, eight assists last season in 59 games with the Wild. ... Center Brian Holzinger and wife Lori had their second daughter, Kassie, on July 30. ... Those wanting to send a message to Montreal star Saku Koivu, diagnosed with abdominal cancer, can do so on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.