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After stint in minors, Keefe sticks around

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2000


TAMPA -- Coaches haven't said much, but Sheldon Keefe knows he must be doing something right.

Since being recalled from the International Hockey League's Detroit Vipers on Oct. 16, the 20-year-old right wing has seen his playing time increase.

Keefe played 19 shifts and was on the ice for 11 minutes, 5 seconds during Friday's 6-0 loss to Ottawa.

"He's got a whole pile of heart," coach Steve Ludzik said. "I'd like to get him a little stronger on the puck."

A prolific scorer in the Ontario Hockey League last season, Keefe led the league with 121 points and 73 assists. The team recalled him after Stan Drulia broke his left hand against Atlanta Oct. 15. In five games, Keefe has taken one shot and given six hits while playing primarily on the fourth line.

"That was the opportunity for me to come back up," said Keefe, who signed a three-year contract worth $2.95-million one week before he was reassigned to Detroit Sept. 27. "When you have that time period when a guy's injured, you have to show you belong here on the team. That was my mind-set coming in.

"I have to prove to everyone here that I should stay here. I'm just going to have to keep going out, work hard every night and keep looking for my opportunities."

CRITICAL POINT: In the hours after he kicked his team off the ice Saturday, Ludzik said the season could swing to disappointment or improvement in the next few games.

"It's coming to the 10th game of the season and I've been pretty patient with these guys from training camp on," he said. "People say, "Well, they're young.' But the only way you learn when you're young is to get pushed. You have to be willing to learn, I believe."

The team has lost four of its past five, and with a 2-6-1 record was last in the Southeast Division behind Carolina (2-4-3), Florida (1-3-3-2), Atlanta (1-3-5) and Washington (1-5-3-1) before Sunday's games. "Teams in our conference are losing," Ludzik said. "You can't expect (Florida) to keep losing with the talent they've got, can you?"

INJURIES: Defenseman Petr Svoboda (hip flexor) practiced Saturday with some discomfort after sitting out against the Senators. Medical trainer Dave Boyer said he expects Svoboda to make the trip to Carolina and New York. Drulia practiced and may be ready to come off the injured-reserve list for Tuesday's game against Carolina if the soreness in his hand subsides. Goaltender Dan Cloutier (left biceps tendinitis) is day-to-day.

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