By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 25, 2000
BRANDON -- The Lightning's goaltending situation took another turn for the worse Sunday when Evgeny Konstantinov complained of a sore upper back and sat out practice.
With Kevin Weekes sidelined with a sore lower back, general manager Rick Dudley said Dieter Kochan will be recalled from the IHL's Detroit Vipers. He is expected today and will be Dan Cloutier's backup for Tuesday night's preseason finale against the Panthers at TECO Arena in Estero.
"Nobody has given us any indication these are long-term things," Dudley said after practice at the Ice Sports Forum. "But it is a tough position. You want guys 100 percent."
Medical trainer Dave Boyer said Konstantinov's injury occurred during Saturday's practice. He said the 19-year-old Russian probably will skate today but not play. Konstantinov has been one of camp's nicer surprises. He has shown excellent lateral movement and quickness and was extremely sharp Thursday night in stopping 9 of 9 shots against the Panthers.
Dudley has been so impressed, and considering Weekes' open-ended timetable for return, the general manager said he might keep Konstantinov with the club for the start of the season.
"We've talked about it. We've liked him that much," Dudley said. "We talked about it before, even if Weekes wasn't hurt. But now with Weekes being sore, it makes a lot more sense."
As for Konstantinov's attributes, Dudley said, "He's much more mature in terms of goaltenders his age. He doesn't get rattled, and he's not the least bit intimidated by playing in the NHL."
"He's played unbelievable for a 19-year-old," coach Steve Ludzik said.
And for someone who has played in only two NHL preseason games, he gave a good interview.
"I was just working hard. I didn't think I was going to make the team or anything like that," said Konstantinov through teammate and interpreter Andrei Zyuzin. "If they are going to let me play, I will work hard to do my best."
DWYER HEARING: Dudley said Gordie Dwyer could be suspended at least 26 games for his actions in Tuesday night's game against the Capitals. The left wing left the penalty box to try to get at Joe Reekie.
Dudley bases his guess on the minimums mandated by the NHL. Dudley said Dwyer was cited for flagrant abuse of officials (10 games), leaving the penalty box (10 games) and two lesser counts of abuse of the officials (three games each).
Dwyer is suspended indefinitely pending a hearing this week in Toronto with NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell.
A substantial suspension could make the Lightning's final cuts a bit easier. If the suspension covers 45 days or more, Dwyer would not be counted against the 23-man roster.
Assuming a 26-game suspension, with the first being Tuesday against the Panthers, Dwyer's absence would run 73 days and bring him back Dec. 8 against the Avalanche.
MARTINS RETURNS: Center Steve Martins, who sprained his right ankle on the first day of camp while doing an off-ice agility test, skated in his first full practice and reported no ill effects.
He was lucky, though, as the stick of defenseman Pavel Kubina smacked him in the face just wide of his left eye during a scramble in front of the net.
"But I still scored," Martins said.
With roster spots at a premium, Martins admitted worrying about job security.
"Absolutely," he said. "When you're not out there, you can't prove yourself and you're giving someone else an opportunity to show what they have."
"It's impossible (to evaluate him)," Ludzik said. "I feel for him since it's not his fault he got hurt."
Working in Martins' favor is the 59 games he played last season and his respectable minus-12 while averaging more than 13 minutes.
"Steve Martins can be an effective player for us," Ludzik said.