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Bulked-up Weekes ready

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 12, 2001


BRANDON -- Kevin Weekes showed up for the first day of Lightning camp Tuesday with a healthy body and a healthy attitude.

The 26-year-old goaltender, who added 21 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot frame and now weighs 218, said his relationship with Nikolai Khabibulin is solid and he is ready to work, despite what appears to be a reduction in playing time.

General manager Rick Dudley has said the plan is for Khabibulin to play 50 games, Weekes 32. Weekes played 61 last season.

"I'm not going to focus on the volume of games as (much as) I am the preparation and the quality of games," Weekes said after morning workouts at the Ice Sports Forum. "That's the way we're approaching it."

"I just want to play as hard as possible and as hard as I can every day. We'll just take it day by day. We all want to contribute and do our part."

That's just what Dudley wanted to hear.

"He's been a competitive guy his whole life," Dudley said. "All it does is raise the bar to get ice time. I'd like to see Kevin compete and play the way he's capable of. He'll get ice time."

"A lot of great goalies have played together," Weekes said. "There have been a lot of great tandems. I don't see why we have to be any different. We'll play as well as we can and help each other. We'll try to have as much fun as we can, and try to play as advertised."

STANDING PAT: Dudley said he is not inclined to make any moves to fill the hole at center caused by Vinny Lecavalier's holdout because of the summer acquisition of Vaclav Prospal.

The general manager said he is sure the 6-2, 200-pounder can raise his game as he did for the Senators when Alexei Yashin sat out the 1999-2000 season in a contract dispute.

Prospal had 22 goals, 33 assists that season but fell to five goals, 24 assists last season for Ottawa and the Panthers.

"I just want to show I can play and erase last year from my head," said Prospal, acquired from Florida for Ryan Johnson and a sixth-round draft pick in 2003. "I went through some tough times, and I look at this as a clean start."

NO RESPECT: ESPN's hockey Web site ranks the Lightning last out of 30 teams. The Hockey News says Tampa Bay is 15th out of 15 teams in the East.

"We're a much better hockey team than that," right wing Matthew Barnaby said. "Look at our goaltending to start. We're as good as anyone out there. I just think our reputation preceeds us. You have to prove someone wrong to get respect."

MUSIC MAN: A team questionnaire asked players what music they wanted to hear at the Ice Palace during games. Defenseman Cory Sarich took the question very seriously.

"Obviously, they play all that pop music from nowadays and I'm not a big fan," he said. He requested "songs to get you going."

On the list: songs from AC/DC, Metallica, Megadeth, the Tragically Hip and the Guess Who.

ODDS AND ENDS: Defenseman Petr Svoboda, still feeling the effects of a concussion in December, was not in camp. ... Coach John Tortorella said he will evaluate the team's fitness after today's second day of testing. "If they don't want to listen," he said of a directive to come to camp in shape, "they don't want to be part of the organization."

Around the league

CANADIENS: The players stepped on the ice as a team for the first time this season and, rather than displaying the exuberance typical of a new season, there was a subdued tone. The team is carrying on without Saku Koivu, who is battling abdominal cancer.

"He's at home, just resting up and trying to conserve his energy for the battle he's about to enter," forward Brian Savage said.

COYOTES: Right wing Mike Johnson, who came from the Lightning as part of the Nikolai Khabibulin trade, signed a two-year contract.

FLAMES: The team named Al MacNeil a special assistant to general manager Craig Button.

SABRES: Defenseman Alexei Zhitnik agreed to a two-year deal with a team option for 2003-04.

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