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Frustrated Ludzik kicks players off ice

The Lightning's coach melts down in the Ice Palace, throws a stick and abruptly ends a lethargic practice.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


TAMPA -- One day after Ottawa beat the Lightning 6-0, a botched defensive drill during practice at the Ice Palace sent Steve Ludzik into a tirade.

The second-year coach kicked his team off the ice, whacked a couple of water bottles with his stick, then hurled the stick several rows deep into Section 129.

"To be quite honest, I looked at my watch and we were already close to an hour of practice," Ludzik said later Saturday. "I said, "You know what? Get out. Get off the ice. You're wasting my time.'

"I sure hope it's a wake-up call to some guys. I really do."

Goalie Kevin Weekes, who allowed four goals against the Senators on Friday, said: "If you know you have a Ferrari or a BMW and it's performing like a Chevy Lumina or a Caravan, you'd be frustrated right? Because you know, ideally, it's supposed to perform.

"It is a little bit frustrating because we do have some very good people but team-wise, we're not doing what we should be right now."

The Lightning has been been outscored 26-12 while losing four of its last five games.

Meanwhile, a penalty-killing unit that stopped 29 straight opportunities to start the season has allowed nine goals in 24 chances since.

"We're still waiting for everybody on our team to step up and play," Ludzik said. "That's the bottom line. As a coach, I've got to find ways to get those to play to that level. Every guy you have to figure out which button to push. I'm just looking for some button to push."

The message of Ludzik's outburst was clear to those players who sat in a silent locker room after practice.

"I'm sure he's frustrated and ticked off," Weekes said. "We should all be that way too. Not we should. We better be that way. I think for the most part we are."

With the team off to its worst start since the 1997-98 season, players met before practice.

"We talked this morning about everything, about what happened the last couple of games," captain and center Vinny Lecavalier said. "We know we all like each other in here. We know we respect each other, but on the ice we have to back each other up.

"If a guy makes a mistake then we have to cover him. That's basically what we talked about. If we can do that, we're going to win some games."

NOTES: Defenseman Bryan Muir was assigned to the team's IHL affiliate in Detroit.

"It's frustrating," Muir said as he left the Ice Palace. "I'm going to go down and work hard. Hopefully I'm going to be back soon."

In eight games, he had two assists, 11 penalty minutes and a team-high 23 blocked shots.

"We had Bryan slated as guy that was going to be down in Detroit (before the season)," Ludzik said. "To his credit, he worked hard to stay here. The last three or four games he had just really fallen off the map. He'll be back."

First-line forward Mike Johnson, who received a Grade 1 concussion in the first period against Ottawa, did not practice.

Johnson said he was unintentionally kneed in the back of the head by Lecavalier after falling to the ice.

He is scheduled to work out today and is expected to be ready for Tuesday's game at Carolina, according to medical trainer Dave Boyer.

"I certainly feel a lot better but I'm not perfect I guess," said Johnson, who has three assists and two goals. "They (headaches) come and go, nothing too serious. ... Hopefully tomorrow I'll have a chance to get a workout in and hopefully have no symptoms like I had, headaches or anything like that."

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