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Cloutier's back and he's taking the spotlight


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 2000

TAMPA -- Dan Cloutier worked diligently over the summer to heal a sore groin that bothered him all last season. The payoff came Sunday night.

The Lightning goaltender stopped 29 shots during a 2-1 preseason victory over the Hurricanes at the Ice Palace, including Rod Brind'Amour's penalty shot with one second remaining. "Cloutier gets all the credit," Lightning coach Steve Ludzik said. "He gave us every chance to win that game."

Cloutier held the fort until Tampa Bay (1-1) awoke from a 40-minute snooze and scored two goals in less than two minutes in the third period.

Petr Svoboda got the first at 9:52 from the high slot. Ryan Johnson got the winner at 11:35 when a wraparound attempt by Todd Warriner deflected off Johnson's skate past goaltender Tyler Moss. Michael Johnson assisted on both goals.

"The first two periods we were very tentative," Ludzik said. "We were skating to stay even, not to win."

Ludzik said things changed when the forecheck got more aggressive.

"We wanted to put some heat, and the players, to their credit, really went at it," he said.

The penalty shot was awarded after a Tampa Bay player dislodged the net during a flurry around the crease. Brind'Amour deked left and tried to go low through Cloutier's legs, but the blade of Cloutier's stick got in the way.

"The ice was pretty bad, there was a lot of snow," said Cloutier, who gave up a goal to Niclas Wallin in the first period. "I knew if he was going to deke me, he had to go low. I was going to keep my ground and challenge him and make him make the first move."

Cloutier made the game's last.

ATTENDANCE: An announced crowd of 5,587 attended despite the lingering effects of Hurricane Gordon. "I was shocked," Ludzik said. "I mean, we're talking about a hurricane. That's a tribute to the hockey fans in Tampa."

TIME TO TRIM: Cuts will be announced today. Ludzik said he would like to get down to 25 or 26 players from the 43 in camp. The final roster will hold 23 players.

HEADS OR TAILS?: Sunday's game started a back-and-forth rotation in goal between Cloutier and Kevin Weekes in which both will get two starts.

How did Cloutier get the first of the four games?

"I tossed a coin," Ludzik said.

INJURY UPDATE: Defenseman Dan Keczmer, who was helped off the ice Saturday night with a right knee injury, is scheduled for an MRI today.

Defenseman Sergey Gusev (right knee) skated Sunday morning at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon in his first practice of training camp.

Ludzik said left wing Fredrik Modin (sore groin) likely will play Tuesday. The coach said center Vinny Lecavalier (hyperextended left elbow) will play "only if he is 100 percent." Lecavalier said he has not shot the puck since returning to practice to avoid aggravating the injury.

ODDS AND ENDS: Ludzik said left wing Alexander Kharitonov was the game's best forward. ... Carolina did not dress Sandis Ozolinsh, Kevin Hatcher and Ron Francis. ... Lightning right wing Sheldon Keefe, who is fighting for a roster spot and a contract, was scratched. "He didn't have a great game (Saturday night), but I don't think you should read anything into that," Ludzik said.

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