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By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 18, 2000
TORONTO -- The family reunion was over.
Coach Steve Ludzik, a Toronto native, spent two days getting reacquainted with family and friends as the Lightning waited for Friday night's game against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
But after Thursday night's dinner at an Italian restaurant with his mother Barb, who still lives in the house in which her son grew up, it was time for business.
"They know enough not to bother me," Ludzik joked of his game day routine.
Ludzik clearly enjoyed his hometown. Very special was Tampa Bay's Thursday practice at Lakeshore Lions Memorial Auditorium, the arena where Ludzik learned to play hockey.
As Ludzik, 38, sat in the stands and watched the end of the workout, he waived to Barb and playfully warned her not to talk to reporters. He spoke of his father, Ted, who died some time ago, and how he put Ludzik in games against boys two years older.
"I was 5 years old. You had to be 7 to play," Ludzik said. "Dad skated me around the ice, pushing me to play. I didn't touch the puck for two years."
The only downer: Ludzik could not find the trophy he won in 1979, at age 17, for being the Lakeshore community's athlete of the year.
For years it sat in a case in front of the arena, but was moved after a the building was remodeled.
"I don't know where it is," Ludzik said.
TWO OF A KIND: How is this for coincidence? The Lightning and Maple Leafs have a Petr Svoboda on their rosters. Both are defensemen. Both wear No. 23 and both are natives of the Czech Republic.
The difference: Tampa Bay's Petr Svoboda is 34 years old, has played 1,021 NHL games and won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens.
Toronto's Petr Svoboda is a 20-year-old rookie who has played nine games.
They never have met.
"We have the same number and the same name and some people send me his mail," the younger Svoboda said. "He's a very good player."
Said Svoboda the elder: "I think I had the number before him."
ODDS AND ENDS: Ludzik said goaltender Dan Cloutier, who has not played since Oct. 21 because of tendinitis in his left biceps, is "very close" to being ready and could play Monday against the Stars. ... Toronto defenseman Dave Manson played his 1,000th game Friday night. ... Lightning center Steve Martins had the last laugh on Montreal's Francis Bouillon. After the two fought Tuesday night, Martins walked away with a headache. Bouillon is out of the lineup with a broken hand. Lightning defensemen Paul Mara (hip pointer), Craig Millar (bruised rib tissue) and Sergey Gusev (right knee) were scratched. Forward Martin St. Louis was a healthy scratch. ... Tampa Bay's Svoboda (lower back strain) and forward Wayne Primeau (left heel contusion) returned to action. ... Former Lightning defenseman Cory Cross (hip) was scratched.