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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    Good, bad and ugly

    Best trade: G Nikolai Khabibulin and D Stan Neckar acquired from the Coyotes in March 2000 for RW Mike Johnson, D Paul Mara, C Ruslan Zainullin and a second-round draft choice.

    Worst trade: C Brad Richards and G Johan Holmqvist to the Stars in February 2008 for G Mike Smith, C Jeff Halpern and LW Jussi Jokinen.

    Craziest story: When the Flyers in August 1997 made a five-year, $16.5 million contract offer to Lightning free agent Chris Gratton, Esposito, then the general manager, tried to have it invalidated by saying numbers on the fax (remember those?) from the Flyers were smudged. But an arbitrator ruled otherwise. So the Gratton trade cash-strapped Tampa Bay was trying to make with the Blackhawks was scuttled. Esposito declined to match the Flyers' offer but ended up trading the big center to Philadelphia for wing Mikael Renberg and defenseman Karl Dykhuis.

    BIGGEST CROWD: Game 3 of the 1996 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Flyers was watched by 28,183 in the ThunderDome (now Tropicana Field), still the largest crowd to ever watch an NHL playoff game.

    Worst power play: General manager Brian Lawton in February 2010 fired assistant coach Wes Walz and elevated AHL Norfolk coach Jim Johnson to replace him without consulting Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, who banished Johnson to the press box during games. Guess what? Lawton was fired by new owner Jeff Vinik.

    Best quote:

    "I said 'hockey.' They thought I said 'sake.' "

    — Esposito, on how he sold owning the Lightning to the original Japanese investors

    Worst season: In 1997-98, Tampa Bay was 17-55-10 with two 16-game winless streaks and a 1-12-1 streak to end the season. After a loss during one of those streaks, then-St. Petersburg Times beat writer Tom Jones said to wing Mikael Andersson, "I don't even know what to ask you." Responded Andersson: "I don't know what to tell you."

    Worst pep talk: On Nov. 11, 2008, coach Barry Melrose, after a heated locker room meeting with his team, was seen walking the streets in Sunrise while players practiced. The next night, the Lightning lost 4-0 to the Panthers; the night after that, 4-3 to the Red Wings. The day after that, Melrose was fired after going 5-7-4 in 16 games.

    Best 1-2 punch: If you didn't see Lecavalier and St. Louis as linemates in the 2006-07 season, you missed something. Lecavalier, at center, had 52 goals and 108 points. St. Louis, on right wing, had 43 goals, 102 points. As much as we relish the Stamkos-St. Louis combination now, Lecavalier and St. Louis were better, with machinelike precision and a sixth sense about their game.

    Best war of words: After Melrose was fired, he accused Barrie and Koules of interfering with his coaching. Barrie called Melrose's game preparations "negligence."

    Best absentee owner: Bill Davidson, owner of Palace Sports & Entertainment in Auburn, Mich., bought the Lightning in 1999 for the arena lease and the surrounding land in Tampa. After his partners with land-developing experience died, Davidson's interest in the Lightning waned. Still, he owned the team when it won the Cup and spent to the cap after the 2004-05 lockout.

    Worst owners: Barrie did not have any money, and Koules, as far as running a team goes, did not have a clue, though they did draft Stamkos.



    L

    ightning founder Phil Esposito said Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup championship means more to him than all the goals he scored in the NHL and the two Cups he won with the Bruins.

    "When your kids do something that is just unbelievable, you are so proud of them, you can't believe it," Esposito said. "For me, the Lightning was like my kid, it was like my baby. I still feel that way."

    Awarded to the Tampa Bay area in December 1990, the Lightning played — and won — its first game on Oct. 7, 1992. It made the playoffs for the first time in 1996 and eight years later won the Stanley Cup.

    With the Lighting entering its 20th season, what better time to name its all-time team.

    Some big names did not make the top six (one at each position), including center Brad Richards, MVP of the 2004 Cup run, and center Steven Stamkos, a 60-goal scorer who may be the team's best player right now. But this is a list of cumulative accomplishment.

    Many might miss left wing Fredrik Modin, perhaps the most underrated player in Lightning history; goaltender Daren Puppa, who led the team to its first playoff berth; left wing Rob Zamuner, perhaps the franchise's best defensive forward; and Pavel Kubina, whose 72 goals lead all Lightning defensemen.

    All are noteworthy. As Esposito said, "When your kids do something that makes you really proud, it really makes you feel good."

    Goaltender

    Nikolai Khabibulin 2000-04

    An argument can be made the Lightning would not have won the 2004 Stanley Cup without him. Richards was a deserving Conn Smythe winner, but Khabibulin — who during the regular season was close to losing his starting job to John Grahame — was 16-7 with five shutouts in 28 playoff games, with a 1.71 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. Khabibulin was a victim of the season-killing 2004-05 lockout and ensuing new salary cap; then-general manager Jay Feaster, facing a one-or-the-other financial decision, kept Marty St. Louis instead. Since then, Tampa Bay has used 18 goalies, most in the league, and Khabibulin, now with the Oilers, still has team career records of 83 wins, 14 shutouts, a 2.39 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

    DefensemAn

    Dan Boyle 2002-08

    Hardly anyone noticed when then-general manager Rick Dudley in January 2002 acquired Boyle from the Panthers for a fifth-round draft choice. But Boyle became a Norris Trophy (best defenseman) candidate and arguably the best blue-liner in team history. He certainly was the best puck mover, something the team hasn't had since July 2008, when Feaster traded Boyle to the Sharks under orders from then-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie. Boyle's 20 goals in 2006-07 and 252 career points are Lightning records for defensemen.

    DefensemAn

    Roman Hamrlik 1992-97

    The Lightning's first draft choice, Hamrlik set team records for defensemen with 49 assists and 40 power-play points in 1995-96. Taken No. 1 overall in 1992, Hamrlik was a solid two-way blue-liner who skated well, was physical and had a big shot. Most noteworthy was how he quarterbacked the 1995-96 power play. The Lightning was fourth in the league, at a team-record 20.8 percent, as it powered to its first playoff appearance. Hamrilk, traded in December 1997 to the Oilers for Bryan Marchment, Steve Kelly and Jamie Bonsignor (a salary dump considered one of the Lightning's worst trades), is with the Capitals and has played 1,379 career games.

    Left wing

    Dave Andreychuk 2001-06

    Signed in July 2001 by Dudley as a free agent, Andreychuk added more to the team than three 20-goal seasons, his 600th career goal and his run toward an NHL record 274 power-play goals before retiring in 2006. The captain, who won his only Stanley Cup in 2004, led a core group of veterans that included center Tim Taylor and defenseman Grant Ledyard that taught a young team to understand what it takes to win. The best Andreychuk story? Once in Montreal after a team dinner at which players truly enjoyed themselves, Andreychuk made sure he skated ahead of his teammates during the next day's practice. The message: No matter how hard you party, always be ready to play.

    Center

    Vinny Lecavalier 1998-present

    His production has slipped, and injuries have mounted, but Lecavalier still is one of the faces of the franchise. The Montreal native calls Tampa a second home, and his charitable contributions — his foundation donated $3 million to help construct the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg — solidified his position in the community. Lecavalier, 32, the team captain who was drafted No. 1 overall in 1998 by Esposito, holds Tampa Bay career records with 373 goals, 60 winners, 842 points, 107 power-play goals and 288 power-play points. He also had a team season record 108 points in 2006-07, when he earned the Rocket Richard Trophy with a league-best 52 goals.

    Right wing

    Marty St. Louis 2000-present

    Signed by Dudley as a free agent in July 2000, St. Louis was languishing during the 2000-01 season when he demanded more playing time from then-coach Steve Ludzik, who wisely acquiesced. St. Louis, 37, is second in team history with 319 goals, 57 winners and 832 points. It is in the playoffs, though, where he has shined even more, with team bests of 33 goals, eight winners (three in overtime), 35 assists and 68 points. He scored arguably the biggest goal in Tampa Bay history: the overtime winner in Calgary in Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final that sent the series back to Tampa, where the Lightning won the title.

    Coach

    John Tortorella 2001-08

    No matter what you thought of his people skills, Tortorella, who took over in January 2001 after Ludzik was fired, got the most out of his players. Even Lecavalier, with whom Tortorella famously clashed, said after he played in Russia during the 2004-05 lockout that he missed the structure of Tortorella's system. The coach's "Safe Is Death" philosophy — a term actually coined by assistant Craig Ramsay — helped the Lightning to four playoff appearances, Southeast Division titles in 2003 and '04, and the 2004 Stanley Cup championship. Tortorella was fired in June 2008 by Koules and Barrie after missing the playoffs and going 238-216-38 with 36 ties. He is in his fifth season with the Rangers.

    20th anniversary lightning DT head Here

    lightning dt head he

    20th anniversary


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    In a way, former Lightning center John Cullen said, fighting through the cancer that ended his career — and almost his life — gave him two of his greatest gifts: twin daughters Karlyn and Kortland, now 12.

    "They tell you before you go through chemotherapy and radiation that you will become sterile so you'd better save this up if you want more children," Cullen said. "I had to go to one of those (sperm) banks, and I donated to myself."

    Cullen's story is one of the most emotional in Lightning history. Diagnosed in March 1997 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Cullen needed six rounds of chemo, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, during which his heart briefly stopped.

    Even so, Cullen won a spot on the Lightning's 1998-99 roster, an effort for which he was awarded the NHL's Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to the sport.

    But it was quickly clear Cullen was not the same player who had two 30-goal seasons for the Penguins and 34 goals and 105 points in 150 games with Tampa Bay. After four games with the Lightning and six for Cleveland of the now-defunct International Hockey League, Cullen became Tampa Bay's assistant coach, a job he held through 2000.

    "As for changing my life, it probably did," Cullen said of his ordeal. "I catch myself. If I get upset, I realize my situation could have been a lot worse. It definitely helped me through my experiences."

    A tough one came in June 2009, when he lost his Dodge dealership as part of the economic crisis. Cullen, 48, who had moved to Atlanta with his family — which also includes wife Valerie and daughter Kennedy, 17 — operated one of 789 dealerships closed by Chrysler.

    He now works at a Chevrolet dealership in Jonesboro, Ga., owned by his brother, Terry, for whom Cullen had worked for five years.

    Not bad when you consider the alternative.

    "I just feel it's luck and being blessed," Cullen said of surviving cancer. "How many years later and I'm talking to you? It's an unbelievable feeling."


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    It took 20 years, but Manon Rheaume finally has some peace.

    The goal she allowed in her first Lightning game, to Blues defenseman Jeff Brown, wasn't such a softy after all.

    "I always thought it was a goal from between the red line and the blue line," Rheaume said.

    But in September, on the 20th anniversary of becoming the only woman to play for an NHL team, Rheaume watched the highlights revived on TV and the Internet.

    "He actually crossed the blue line and took a few strides before he lined up for the slap shot," she said of Brown. "I was like, 'That's not really too bad of a goal.' "

    "It took me 20 years," Rheaume added, laughing, "to sleep better."

    Good goal or bad, Rheaume's story is part of hockey lore.

    Added to Tampa Bay's inaugural 1992 training camp as what team founder Phil Esposito acknow­ledged was a publicity stunt, Rheaume not only held her own, she inspired a generation of hockey-playing girls.

    "The whole experience was amazing, but the most rewarding thing is having an impact in young girls' lives," said Rheaume, 40, who lives outside Detroit with sons Dylan, 13, and Dakota, 6. "I didn't realize it back then. But later in life, getting a bunch of letters and emails, that is the most rewarding thing when you can have a positive impact."

    Rheaume also attended the Lightning's 1993 camp. She played one preseason period each year, allowing five goals on 20 shots. In her history-making first game — Sept. 23, 1992, against the Blues at Tampa's Expo Hall — Rheaume allowed two goals on nine shots.

    She went on to win gold with Canada at the 1992 and '94 world championships and silver at the 1998 Olympics. She also was the first woman to appear in a regular-season professional game, in 1992 with Atlanta of the now-defunct International Hockey League.

    It is Rheaume's time with Tampa Bay, though, that is most remembered. She still has her jersey and mask, and the fame helped her in 2008 launch the Manon Rheaume Foundation, which provides scholarships to college-bound female athletes.

    "When someone told me I was invited (to Tampa Bay's training camp), I didn't care why," Rheaume said. "So many times people said no because I was a girl. If someone said yes because I was a girl, I was going to take the invitation."


    Associated Press (1992)Associated Press (1992)

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    Every time a Lightning player scores three goals in a game, Chris Kontos' phone lights up.

    The Google Alerts, emails and text and Twitter messages all ask the same thing: Is Kontos' team record of four goals about to fall?

    "It just keeps coming up," Kontos said. "It's funny."

    Actually, Kontos said, it's amazing he still has the record, set Oct. 7, 1992, in Tampa Bay's inaugural game, a 7-3 victory at Expo Hall over the Blackhawks and Hall of Fame goaltender Ed Belfour. The Lightning has played 1,527 games since then, and 42 hat tricks have been recorded. But the team's longest-running individual record still stands.

    "You'd think it would have been broken by now, especially with a 50-goal scorer on the team," Kontos said, referring to star center Steven Stamkos. "You'd think he'd have five five-goal games or 10 of them."

    Kontos, 49, lives about 100 miles north of Toronto, in Penetanguishene, Ontario, with wife Joanne, daughter Joelle, 15, and son Kristoff, 19, who plays for Mississauga of the junior Ontario Hockey League. He has a promotional and marketing company and developed a rechargeable hand-held skate sharpener used by several NHL teams, including the Lightning.

    Kontos, who will be at tonight's game as a guest of the Lightning, has few keepsakes from his record-setting game.

    He has a magazine picture in which he holds the four pucks with which he scored. But the pucks are long gone, he said, used by Kristoff and friends in numerous games on the family's backyard rink.

    Kontos' four-goal game sparked a torrid start in which he had 18 goals in his first 18 games.

    "I was right up there with (Hall of Famer) Mario Lemieux (the eventual scoring champion), keeping pace," he said.

    Kontos cooled after that and finished with a career-best 27 goals on a team that was 23-54-7 and last in the Norris Division.

    "With our team, it was pretty hard to keep putting up those kinds of numbers," he said.

    For one game, at least, it was Kontos who was hard to stop.


    Photo provided by Chris KontosPhoto provided by Chris Kontos

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    Funny what sticks. For Terry Crisp, mulling over his five-plus seasons as the Lightning's first coach, it is a loss.

    It was April 27, 1996, and Tampa Bay had just been eliminated by the Flyers 6-1 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. But as Crisp walked across the ice, he stopped to marvel at the ThunderDome crowd of 27,189.

    "I don't remember who was walking with me," Crisp recalled. "I said, 'Let's stop and soak this in. Let's do a 360 here.' The fans were still standing, still cheering. The team was knocked out, but they were respectful of what it accomplished."

    Much of that was because of Crisp, who molded a fairly ragtag squad — "A bunch of guys other teams didn't want," he said — into the 4-year-old organization's first playoff team, which played at what now is called Tropicana Field.

    "It was easy. They all fit together," he said of the players. "They all knew their roles, and they worked."

    It was, said Crisp, 69 — who won Stanley Cups as a center in 1974 and '75 with the Flyers and in 1989 as coach of the Flames — one of his most satisfying seasons because as a young expansion franchise, "We weren't supposed to be there."

    Crisp, fired 11 games into the 1997-98 season, is in his 16th season as a TV and radio analyst for the Predators. But the recollections from that Lightning playoff season still came easily.

    Crisp said he loved the grit and leadership of players such as Brian Bradley, Rob Zamuner, John Tucker and Bill Holder. He talked about defenseman Roman Hamrlik and his big shot and how "unreal" penalty killing (fifth in the NHL at 84.5 percent) was so important.

    And if goalie Daren Puppa had not been lost to injury against the Flyers, "We could have taken them to the wall," Crisp said.

    "That was the proudest thing with those guys," he said. "We got the respect of the league in a hurry with guys who worked hard and wanted to do it. That's what made it so memorable. I respect all the guys that did that."


    Times file (1995)Times file (1995)

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    By Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    Lightning preview

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones gives his Two Cents preview of the 2013 NHL season.

    Eastern Conference

    Northeast

    The Bruins won the Cup in 2011, but were eliminated in the first round in the playoffs last season. But this team remains loaded and very deep with six 20-goal scorers. As long as they can straighten out their goaltending with Tuukaa Rask, the Bruins remain the team to beat. The Senators shocked the NHL last season with a 92-point season and remain a big, gritty team that's hard to face. Look for a rebound year from the Sabres, who struggled last season partly because of injury problems with goalie Ryan Miller. Canada's two most famed franchises — the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens — are a mess. Both missed the playoffs last season and have new GMs. The Leafs have big issues in goal, and the Canadiens have major problems scoring goals.

    Atlantic

    The addition of scorer Rick Nash makes the Rangers among the favorites for the Stanley Cup, especially if Marian Gaborik can return well from shoulder surgery. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist needs to have a big season, but he always does. If Sidney Crosby can stay healthy, the Penguins remain a Cup contender, too. Even without Crosby, the Pens are dangerous with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The Flyers have plenty of offense, but need to have goalie Ilya Brzgalov rid himself of the inconsistency that plagued him last season. The defending Eastern Conference champion Devils need 40-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur to continue to drink from the fountain of youth and, perhaps, the shortened season will benefit him. But they lost a big piece when Zach Parise left for free agency to Minnesota. The Islanders will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season, but they are building a nice core of young players with John Taveres (31 goals), Matt Moulson (36 goals) and Kyle Okposo (24 goals).

    Southeast

    This might be the most tightly contested division in hockey. Every team has a chance to come out on top. The Caps, with new coach Adam Oates, are probably the favorite provided Alex Ovechkin can become a dominant scorer again and goalie Braden Holtby becomes the No. 1 goalie the Caps have lacked in the Ovechkin era. The Lightning plugged holes in goal with Anders Lindbeck and defense with Sami Salo and Matt Carle. If that works, the Lightning will be fine because they have plenty of firepower up front with Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell. Look for improvement from the Hurricanes with the additions of forwards Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal, but, as always, Carolina will lean heavily on goalie Cam Ward. The Panthers had a nice bounce-back year last season. Their top line of Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann is outstanding, but depth is a question. The Jets added scoring with Olli Jokinen and Alex Ponikarovsky, but they don't win enough on the road. Maybe that's because most road trips are so far away for a team that should be in the Western Conference.

    Western Conference

    Central

    The Blues are a boring team to watch (they were 22nd in goals for last season), but the defensive system of coach Ken Hitchcock works. It's essentially the same team that finished second in the West last season with the addition of highly-rated prospect Vladimir Tarasenko. You keep waiting for the Red Wings to take a slide and they never do. The difference this season is they won't have defenseman Nick Lidstrom for the first time in 20 years. They'll miss him, and the Wings will need a huge year from goalie Jimmy Howard. The Predators have a sensational goalie in Pekka Rinne, but they can also score, too. They were eighth in goals-for last season. They'll miss defenseman Ryan Suter, who left as a free agent. The main pieces of the Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith) remain, but something seems to be missing from their Cup-winning team from 2010. The Blue Jackets were already bad and now they don't even have Rick Nash.

    Northwest

    The Canucks are a season removed from the Stanley Cup final and were eliminated last season by the eventual-champion Kings. No team has piled up more points over the past two seasons and there's no reason to think that the Canucks can't get back to the final, especially with superstars such as the Sedin Twins. The Oilers have the most exciting young players (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and No. 1 pick Nail Yakupov) in hockey. I'm predicting a playoff spot because I'm predicting a really hot start. That's big in a shortened season. No team made a bigger offseason splash than the Wild, which spent $200 million to add defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise. But the Wild still don't score enough goals. The Avalanche have some nice young pieces up front, but last year was an inconsistent scoring season in Colorado. That's not good when you have a thin defense and an up-and-down goalie such as Semyon Varlamov. Flames GM Jay Feaster hired his old buddy, Bob Hartman, to coach, but the Flames seem old and worn. Hard to believe that Jarome Iginla is already 35.

    Pacific

    The defending-champion Kings should be right in the Cup mix again as long as goalie Jonathan Quick (back surgery) and top forward Anze Kopitar (knee) are heathy. Kopitar, who injured himself in Europe during the lockout, might miss a couple of weeks. The Sharks have tons of proven talent with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle, but I'm still not sold on goalie Antti Niemi even though he won a Cup with Chicago. The Coyotes were the surprise team of the NHL last season, rallying late to win the division, but can former Lightning goalie Mike Smith play out of his mind again? You have to love watching the Ducks top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, but you don't have to love watching the rest of this team. I'm not sure what the Stars are trying to accomplish, but when you're adding old geezers such as 40-year-olds Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney and expecting them to make major contributions, you might be in trouble.

    Five thoughts about this season

    1. Look for Penguins star Sidney Crosby to have a huge season. A long layoff for a guy trying to finally shake concussion problems once and for all is just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.

    2. For now, I'm not picking them to make the playoffs, but if I had to predict a team to come out of nowhere and win the Eastern Conference, I might say the Carolina Hurricanes because of key offseason additions.

    3. It has been 20 years since a Canadian-based team won the Stanley Cup. That's when Jacques Demers' Canadiens beat Barry Melrose's Kings. Will the string end this year? The Canucks are the only Canadian team with a chance.

    4. With only 48 games and every single point a crucial point, shootouts will be more important than ever. The differences between the teams that finish seventh and eighth in the conferences and making the playoffs and those finishing ninth and 10th and just missing will be those extra shootout points.

    5. Injuries always play a pivotal role in hockey, but with 48 games in 99 days, little injuries could turn into major missed time. Before, a two-week injury might mean five missed games. This season, a two-week injury could mean as much as eight games or nine games.

    Predictions

    Eastern Conference playoff teams: Rangers, Bruins, Capitals, Penguins, Flyers, Senators, Lightning, Hurricanes.

    Western Conference playoff teams: Canucks, Kings, Blues, Red Wings, Sharks, Predators, Oilers, Blackhawks.

    Stanley Cup: Rangers over Canucks.

    Hart Trophy (MVP): Alex Ovechkin (Caps)

    Norris Trophy (best defenseman): Zdeno Chara (Bruins)

    Vezina Trophy (best goalie): Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers)

    Calder Trophy (best rookie): Nail Yakupov (Oilers)

    Jack Adams Award (best coach): Adam Oates (Caps)

    Today's schedule

    Pittsburgh at Philadelphia, 3

    Ottawa at Winnipeg, 3

    Chicago at Los Angeles, 3

    N.Y. Rangers at Boston, 7

    Toronto at Montreal, 7

    New Jersey at N.Y. Islanders, 7

    Washington at Tampa Bay, 7

    Carolina at Florida, 7:30

    Detroit at St. Louis, 8

    Columbus at Nashville, 8

    Phoenix at Dallas, 8

    Colorado at Minnesota, 9

    Anaheim at Vancouver, 10


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    It sounds funny to admit now, but Dave Andreychuk said that for more than half the 2003-04 Stanley Cup season, he waited for the other shoe to drop.

    "We were beating teams and playing very well," he recently recalled, "but you still had in the back of your mind that this was going to end and we really weren't that good."

    But tough victories at Toronto and Philadelphia in February and March, respectively, changed the equation: "To me, those were benchmarks that made us really believe in each other. We play our game. We stick to the system. We can beat anybody. It was the key to the season."

    A season that ended with a tense 2-1 win over the Flames in Game 7 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

    For Andreychuk, 49, the captain and now Tampa Bay's vice president of fans and business development, it took 22 years of a 23-year career to get there.

    Do you appreciate the Cup more with time?

    I don't view the importance of it any differently than I did then. I view it as how special that season was. You think it's going to come by all the time, but it's very hard to get to. I can probably speak for a lot of fans here. You had that magical season, and you don't really appreciate it while it's going on how special it was.

    But you had to realize it more than others after waiting 22 years in your career, no?

    I tried not to pull that card very much in the locker room, but I did pull it every once in a while, saying, "Don't take this for granted, and I'm living proof that. You might think you're 21 years old and you're going to be back in the finals. Well that might not happen."

    When you lifted the Cup, did you look for your family in the stands?

    Absolutely. To be honest, in the penalty box with seven seconds to go, I was watching them, too. To me, that was what it was all about. There was no better feeling in the dressing room or after than handing the Stanley Cup to my dad (Julian). And we're cele­brating not only the 22 years it took me to get there, but the other 20 years before that.

    Was coach John Tortorella the ogre he was made out to be?

    I make him out better now than I did back then, but I also make Scotty Bowman (his coach with the Sabres) better now than I did then. For me, those are the coaches that define getting the most out of players; that perfect guy that pushes the right buttons. He should get a lot of credit for what happened.

    Who on that team didn't get enough credit?

    Freddie Modin. Played on one of our top lines, contributed offensively, played power play, was on our second penalty killing unit. Here's a guy who maybe didn't score the big goal but was just a rock for us. Consistently, every night, he came to play. He was that guy that nobody was talking about other than we were watching him on the bench and being inspired.

    Any reunion plans?

    We're thinking we might do it for our 10th anniversary.


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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    TAMPA -- Bucs coach Greg Schiano finally has his man and Josh Freeman has a new quarterbacks coach. John McNulty, who coached quarterbacks and receivers for the Arizona Cardinals the past four years, has agreed to terms with the Buccaneers.

    McNulty will coach quarterbacks for the Bucs, taking over from Ron Turner who took the head coaching job at Florida International University.

    Mike Sullivan will remain as offensive coordinator, and Randy Melvin will stay on as defensive line coach, general manager Mark Dominik said.

    Domink said the Bucs are interviewing for their vacant wide receiver and defensive backs assistant coaching positions.

    "(McNulty) will come in here and work closely with Mike Sullivan, obviously work with Josh Freeman, and bring another really great mind to this offense to continue to develop our Buccaneer offense,'' Dominik said. "Sullivan was able to interview him, he felt just as comfortable and as confident as Greg (Schiano) did in terms of his ability, so that's why it was an exciting hire.''

    McNulty served on Schiano's staff at Rutgers from 2004-08 and was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach during his last three seasons with the Scarlet Knights.

    After being hired by the Bucs last Jan. 26, Schiano desperately tried to pry McNulty from the Cardinals with the intention of making him the team's offensive coordinator. But the Cardinals would not grant permission for the Bucs to interview him.

    "He had been promoted,'' Dominik said. "He got promoted from the wide receivers coach to the quarterbacks coach last year.''

    McNulty was fired along with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff.

    Under McNulty, Rutgers set school records for total offense (5,841 yards), points scored (421) and first downs (295). They also became the first team in NCAA history to have a 3,000-yard passer (Mike Teal-3,147 yards), a 2,000-yard rusher (Ray Rice-2,069 yards), and two 1,000-yard receivers (Kenny Britt-1,232, Tiquan Underwood-1,100 yards). During McNulty's five seasons at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights posted a record of 38-24 and won three consecutive bowl games while he was in charge of play calling.

    Rutgers attempted to hire McNulty after offensive coordinator Dave Brock took the head coaching job at Delaware.

    The Bucs still have to hire a wide receivers and defensive backs coach. Receivers coach P.J. Fleck was hired as the head coach at Western Michigan while defensive backs coach Ron Cooper was hired as the associate head coach/defensive backs at the University of South Florida.

    "We're going through the interview process at other position coaches, and we're very excited about the people who we've already winded it down to,'' Dominik said, "and we'll hopefully be able to add a couple more coaches even before we get to the Senior Bowl.''


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    By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays ended the arbitration process early this season, agreeing to terms with their four remaining eligible players before Friday's exchange of figures.

    Outfielder Matt Joyce was the biggest beneficiary in his first year in the process that always results in a raise, the Tampa native jumping from the $499,500 he made last season to $2,450,000.

    "I don't think anybody really wants to go to arbitration (hearings); they're never any fun for the team or the player," Joyce said. "As for me, I'm happy. I'm really happy. I'm at home, my friends and family are still able to watch me play.

    "I'm really looking forward to this year. I've put in a lot of time studying my mechanics and comparing. I feel like I'm more ready than I ever have been."

    Infielder Ryan Roberts did well — especially after a 2012 season when he hit .235 with a .656 on-base plus slugging percentage for the D-backs and Rays — with a raise from $2,021,500 to $2,950,000 and a chance to get to $3-million if he makes 450 plate appearances.

    Pitcher Jeff Niemann, who made only eight starts in a season lost mostly to injury, got a raise from $2,750,000 (after losing in arbitration last year) to $3,000,000.

    Outfielder Sam Fuld, who also missed much of the season with injury, agreed to a salary of $725,000 after making $489,400.

    The Rays had previously agreed to terms with infielder Sean Rodriguez for $1-million and pitcher David Price, whose $10,112,500 deal includes a $5-million signing bonus (paid Dec. 31), a deferred payment of $4,112,500 (due Oct. 31, 2014) and a $1-million salary.

    Also:

    — Price will officially receive his Cy Young Award Saturday night at the annual banquet hosted by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is the scheduled presenter.

    — Spring training tickets go on sale at 10 today at the team's usual outlets, including Tropicana Field, the Tampa team store, Charlotte Sports Park, all Ticketmaster outlets (including ticketmaster.com) and raysbaseball.com.

    Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    TAMPA — Anders Lindback claims he does not get nervous before games.

    No butterflies, no anxiety, nothing.

    "I don't know why," the Lightning goaltender said. "It's always been like that. I'm just more excited. It's just fun."

    That quirky little trait should come in handy Saturday when the Lightning opens its lockout-shortened, 48-game season at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the Capitals.

    Because all indications are Lindback will get the start, beginning Tampa Bay's plan to develop the 6-foot-6 Swede, acquired last summer from the Predators, into its long-term solution in net.

    That Lindback, 24, will play is not official. Coach Guy Boucher said Friday he still had to discuss it with his staff.

    But Boucher had a long talk with Lindback on the ice after Friday's practice and then said, generally, "He's a young goaltender that needs to see some games and some ice."

    Whether Boucher goes with Lindback or Mathieu Garon, goaltending is again a hot-button issue with the Lightning.

    Yes, the additions of blue-liners Sami Salo and Matt Carle will help tighten the team's overall defensive package that last season was porous to say the least. But that will mean nothing if the goalies can't stop the puck.

    Last season, Garon and Dwayne Roloson combined for a 3.34 goals-against average and .889 save percentage, both league worsts, even more disappointing because the team missed the playoffs by just eight points.

    "The goaltending was not as sharp as it should have been last year," Garon said.

    Indeed, all Garon needed was a relatively average .903 save percentage during a 17-game streak (before a March 6 groin tear ended his season) to go 12-3-2 and push Tampa Bay back into the playoff race.

    Add that a league-most 18 goalies have played for the Lightning since Nikolai Khabibulin helped lead the team to the 2003-04 Stanley Cup title, and even Garon understands why goaltending gets so much scrutiny here.

    "Of course," he said. "Unless you have a Marty Brodeur, who has been for 15 years solid with a team, it's always going to be a question mark."

    Is Lindback, who has played just 38 NHL games in a two-year career spent as backup to Nashville's Pekka Rinne, ready to provide some answers?

    "It's what I've always wanted," he said. "That's why I worked to get this chance, this opportunity, to battle for the No. 1 starting job. "I want to come here and prove myself and help this team win games."

    "He's very athletic," said Salo, who with the Canucks saw Lindback several times. "He doesn't force himself out of the net and he has quick feet for a big goalie."

    And, oh, yeah, Salo said, "He's very calm."

    Not only when it comes to suppressing his nerves but in that there is little wasted motion when he plays.

    "It's something I do to save energy, be ready for those third-period shots," Lindback said.

    As for his lack of butterflies, he said, "I can't remember the last time I was really nervous before a game. It's more excitement for me. I see everything as a chance.

    "I'm ready to go," he added. "I feel good."

    MOVES: Forwards Mike Angelidis, Kyle Wilson and J.T. Wyman cleared waivers and were reassigned to AHL Syracuse. Defenseman Matt Taormina also cleared but because of an undisclosed injury sustained during training camp was not reassigned and was placed on injured reserve.

    Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.


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    By Bill Hardman, Times Correspondent
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    What's hot: Amberjacks are the hot topic for offshore anglers and spearfishermen. The determined divers who are jumping into the 60- to 64-degree water in depths of more than 100 feet are finding legal-size amberjacks, with a few larger ones hiding in the shadows of the school of smaller fish.

    Just this past week, some of our breath-hold divers managed a 50 pound-plus amberjack over a wreck in 100 feet. Then they ventured off to a wreck in 120 feet and managed two 'jacks in the 90-pound class.

    Tips: The water is cold enough that divers should be wearing full thermal head protection with their wet suit. Wearing a full hood for the first time (or for the first time since last winter) can cause serious panic problems, resulting from claustrophobic feelings caused by a combination of factors: wearing a snug restrictive hood; the immediate shock of jumping into relatively cold water; and the difficulty breathing from wearing layers of restrictive wet suit materials.

    What works best is to have a short line tied off the boat. After entering the cold water for the first time, grab the rope and descend only a few feet and get acclimated to all the restrictions.

    It only takes a minute to clear the trapped air that rises through the wet suit and rests in the top of the hood. This air pulls the hood up around your neck and causes pressure on the throat. Continue holding the line, vent the air, calm yourself down and only when you're completely ready, start your descent.

    Bill Hardman teaches Scuba, Spearfishing, Technical & Freediving courses at Aquatic Obsessions in St. Petersburg. You can contact him at (727) 344-3483 or captainbillhardman@gmail.com.


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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    ST. PETERSBURG — By so many important measurements, Collin Klein meets the standards required of NFL quarterbacks.

    At 6 feet 5 and 226 pounds, he has the necessary size plus a presence that can command a huddle of large men. He has the charisma you want from a player who must face hard questions at both good and bad times. And he's a proven success, going 22-6 as a starter in his career at Kansas State, setting records and nearly winning the Heisman Trophy along the way.

    But when it comes to his future at the game's highest level, Klein is hardly considered an elite prospect heading into April's NFL draft. The flaws in his game threaten to undermine so much of the good.

    That's why today's performance in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field can only help Klein, who has been subjected to much scrutiny by scouts during this week's practices for the college all-star contest.

    Klein believes he can win them over.

    "I think I just need to show that I can execute and make all the throws, and also show that I can pick up a new system in a week," said Klein, who will play for the East. "I just need to play the best that I can and get better and better every day."

    Klein, 23, will be joined by prospects from a number of major programs, including Pittsburgh 1,000-yard rusher Ray Graham, Arizona quarterback Matt Scott and others. Each is vying to become the next Alfred Morris, a participant in last year's game who fell to the Redskins in the sixth round but went on to lead all rookies in rushing.

    During practices this week, scouts saw up close what everyone who watches Klein has: He struggles with his throwing motion, perhaps more so than Tim Tebow did when coming out of Florida.

    Klein's tendency to seemingly push the ball rather than throw it fluidly won't go over well. And his arm strength and accuracy are considered limited, major red flags among NFL decisionmakers.

    Klein counters by stressing a track record that suggests he can make a team better. Put simply, he's a winner. He was far and away the most impactful player on his Kansas State team and, at times, one of the most dominant in the country.

    "I think that's huge," Klein said of his .786 career winning percentage. "When it's all said and done, that's what really matters, right?"

    Klein's imperfections will get close examination. But his attributes can't be ignored. His size is key, as is his athletic ability. But a major part of Klein's makeup is his mental grasp of the game.

    Former NFL coach Jerry Glanville, who is coaching the East, recalled this week his first meeting years ago with a young Peyton Manning. Glanville pointed out a parallel he saw in Klein.

    "Tennessee had a kid like him years ago," Glanville said. "He had a little hitch in his throwing motion. That guy at Tennessee, he's bounced around a little bit now, but he's now playing for the Denver Broncos. Inside, (Klein) is a Peyton Manning. There is no difference. None. He knows football."

    If Klein struggles to show the necessary skill set to play quarterback as a pro, there may come a time when the discussion turns to a possible position change (Klein began his career at Kansas State as a receiver). But he has a pretty firm stance on this.

    "I see myself as a quarterback," said Klein, currently projected as a late-round draft choice. "Mentally, I love the strategy of the game. I think I have a lot of mental toughness, the kind of stuff that you need to play with at that position. And I think I have the ability to do it."

    By day's end, we'll have more evidence for or against that notion. The game is a precious chance for a guy with lots to prove.

    "It is," Klein said, "an amazing opportunity."

    Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@tampabay.com.


    CHRIS ZUPPA   |   TimesCHRIS ZUPPA | Times

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    The Good, the bad and the ugly

    Best trade: Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and defenseman Stan Neckar from the Coyotes on March 5, 2001, for right wing Mike Johnson, defenseman Paul Mara, center Ruslan Zainullin and a second-round draft choice.

    Worst trade: Center Brad Richards and goalie Johan Holm­qvist to the Stars in Feb. 26, 2008, for goalie Mike Smith, center Jeff Halpern and left wing Jussi Jokinen.

    Craziest story: When the Flyers made a $16.5 million, five-year offer to Lightning free agent Chris Gratton, general manager Phil Esposito tried to have it invalidated by saying numbers on the fax (remember those?) from the Flyers were smudged. But an arbitrator ruled otherwise. So the Gratton trade cash-strapped Tampa Bay tried to make with the Blackhawks was scuttled. Esposito declined to match the Flyers' offer but on Aug. 20, 1997, ended up trading the big center to Philadelphia for wing Mikael Renberg and defenseman Karl Dykhuis.

    BIGGEST CROWD: Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Flyers was watched by 28,183 in the ThunderDome (now Tropicana Field) on April 23, 1996, still an NHL playoff record.

    Worst power play: General manager Brian Lawton on Feb. 24, 2010, fired assistant coach Wes Walz and elevated AHL Norfolk coach Jim Johnson to replace him — without consulting Lightning coach Rick Tocchet. Tocchet banished Johnson to the press box for games. Guess what? Lawton was fired by new owner Jeff Vinik.

    Best quote:

    "I said 'hockey.' They thought I said 'sake.' "

    — Esposito, on how he sold owning the Lightning to the original Japanese investors

    Worst season: In 1997-98, Tampa Bay was 17-55-10 with two 16-game winless streaks and a 1-12-1 run to end the season. After a loss during one of those streaks, then-Times beat writer Tom Jones said to wing Mikael Andersson, "I don't even know what to ask you." Responded Andersson: "I don't know what to tell you."

    Worst pep talk: On Nov. 11, 2008, coach Barry Melrose, after a heated locker room meeting with his team, was seen walking the streets in Sunrise while players practiced. The next night, the Lightning lost 4-0 to the Panthers; the night after that, 4-3 to the Red Wings. The day after that, Melrose was fired after going 5-7-4 in 16 games.

    Best 1-2 punch: If you didn't see Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis as linemates in 2006-07, you missed something. Lecavalier, at center, had 52 goals and 108 points. St. Louis, on right wing, had 43 goals and 102 points. As much as we relish the St. Louis-Steven Stamkos combination now, Lecavalier and St. Louis were better with machinelike precision and a sixth sense about their game.

    Best war of words: After Melrose was fired, he accused co-owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules of interfering with his coaching. Barrie called Melrose's game preparations, "negligence."

    Best absentee owner: Bill Davidson, owner of Palace Sports & Entertainment in Auburn, Mich., bought the Lightning on June 28, 1999, for the arena lease and the surrounding land in Tampa. After his partners with land-developing experience died, Davidson's interest in the Lightning waned. Still, he owned the team when it won the Cup and spent to the cap after the 2004-05 lockout.

    Worst owners: Barrie did not have any money, and Koules, as far as running a team goes, did not have a clue, though they did draft Stamkos.



    L

    ightning founder Phil Esposito said Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup championship means more to him than all the goals he scored in the NHL and the two Cups he won with the Bruins.

    "When your kids do something that is just unbelievable, you are so proud of them. You can't believe it," Esposito said. "For me, the Lightning was like my kid. It was like my baby. I still feel that way."

    Awarded to the Tampa Bay area on Dec. 6, 1990, the Lightning played — and won — its first game on Oct. 7, 1992. It made the playoffs for the first time in 1996 and eight years later won the Stanley Cup.

    With the Lightning entering its 20th season, what better time to name its all-time team.

    Some big names did not make the top six (one at each position), including center Brad Richards, MVP of the 2004 Cup run, and center Steven Stamkos, a 60-goal scorer who might be the team's best player right now. But this is a list of cumulative accomplishment.

    Many might miss left wing Fredrik Modin, perhaps the most underrated player in Lightning history; goaltender Daren Puppa, who led the team to its first playoff berth; left wing Rob Zamuner, perhaps the franchise's best defensive forward; and Pavel Kubina, whose 72 goals lead all Lightning defensemen.

    All are noteworthy. As Esposito said, "When your kids do something that makes you really proud, it really makes you feel good."

    Goaltender

    Nikolai Khabibulin 2000-04

    An argument can be made the Lightning would not have won the 2004 Stanley Cup without him. Richards was a deserving Conn Smythe winner, but Khabibulin — who during the regular season was close to losing his starting job to John Grahame — was 16-7 with five shutouts in 28 playoff games with a 1.71 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. Khabibulin was a victim of the season-killing 2004-05 lockout and ensuing new salary cap. General manager Jay Feaster, facing a one-or-the-other financial decision, kept Marty St. Louis instead, and Khabibulin signed with Chicago. Since then, Tampa Bay has used 18 goalies, most in the league, and Khabibulin, now with the Oilers, still has team career records of 83 wins, 14 shutouts, a 2.39 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

    Defenseman

    Dan Boyle 2002-08

    Hardly anyone noticed when general manager Rick Dudley on Jan. 7, 2002, acquired Boyle from the Panthers for a fifth-round draft choice. But Boyle became a Norris Trophy (best defenseman) candidate and, arguably, the best blue-liner in team history. He certainly was the best puck mover, something the team hasn't had since July 4, 2008, when GM Jay Feaster traded Boyle to the Sharks under orders from then-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie. Boyle's 20 goals in 2006-07 and 252 career points are Lightning records for defensemen.

    Defenseman

    Roman Hamrlik 1992-97

    The Lightning's first draft choice, Hamrlik set team records for defensemen with 49 assists and 40 power-play points in 1995-96. Taken No. 1 overall in 1992, Hamrlik was a solid two-way blue-liner who skated well, was physical and had a big shot. Most noteworthy was how he quarterbacked the 1995-96 power play. The Lightning was fourth in the league, at a team-record 20.8 percent, as it powered to its first playoff appearance. Hamrilk, traded on Dec. 30, 1997, to the Oilers for Bryan Marchment, Steve Kelly and Jamie Bonsignor (a salary dump considered one of the Lightning's worst trades), now is with the Capitals and has played 1,379 career games.

    Left wing

    Dave Andreychuk 2001-06

    Signed July 13, 2001, as a free agent, Andreychuk added more to the team than three 20-goal seasons, his 600th career goal and his run toward an NHL-record 274 power-play goals before retiring in 2006. The captain, who won his only Stanley Cup in 2004, led a core group of veterans that included center Tim Taylor and defenseman Grant Ledyard that taught a young team to understand what it takes to win. The best Andreychuk story? Once in Montreal after a team dinner at which players truly enjoyed themselves, Andreychuk made sure he skated ahead of his teammates during the next day's practice. The message: No matter how hard you party, always be ready to play. He now is in the Lightning's front office.

    Center

    Vinny Lecavalier 1998-present

    His production has slipped, and injuries have mounted, but Lecavalier still is one of the faces of the franchise. The Montreal native calls Tampa a second home, and his charitable contributions — his foundation donated $3 million to help construct the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg — solidified his position in the community. Lecavalier, 32, the team captain who was drafted No. 1 overall in 1998 by Esposito, holds Tampa Bay career records with 373 goals, 60 winners, 842 points, 107 power-play goals and 288 power-play points. He also had a team season record 108 points in 2006-07, when he earned the Rocket Richard Trophy with a league-best 52 goals.

    Right wing

    Marty St. Louis 2000-present

    Signed as a free agent on July 31, 2000, St. Louis was languishing during the 2000-01 season when he demanded more playing time from then-coach Steve Ludzik, who wisely acquiesced. St. Louis, 37, is second in team history with 319 goals, 57 winners and 832 points. It is in the playoffs, though, where he has shined even more with team bests of 33 goals, eight winners (three in overtime), 35 assists and 68 points. He scored, arguably, the biggest goal in Tampa Bay history: the overtime winner in Calgary in Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final that sent the series back to Tampa, where the Lightning won the title.

    Coach

    John Tortorella 2001-08

    No matter what you thought of his people skills, Tortorella, who took over Jan. 6, 2001, after Steve Ludzik was fired, got the most out of his players. Even Vinny Lecavalier, with whom Tortorella famously clashed, said after playing in Russia during the 2004-05 lockout that he missed the structure of Tortorella's system. The coach's "Safe Is Death" philosophy — a term actually coined by assistant Craig Ramsay — helped the Lightning to four playoff appearances, Southeast titles in 2003 and '04 and the 2004 Stanley Cup title. Tortorella was fired June 3, 2008, by co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie after missing the playoffs and going 238-216-38 with 36 ties. He now is in his fifth season as Rangers coach.



    20th anniversary

    20th anniversary



    Lightning preview


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    By Brandon Wright, Times Correspondent
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    The girls district tournaments got underway last week and now it's the boys turn. Can Tampa Prep repeat as state champ? Which teams will surprise us? Can fifth-seeded Wiregrass Ranch reach the finals of a deep 4A-8? The two teams that reach the district finals will qualify for next week's region quarterfinals. Here's a look at the brackets.

    Class 5A-7 at Riverview

    Tuesday: No. 4 Wharton vs. No. 5 Durant, 3 p.m.; No. 3 Plant vs. No. 6 Bloomingdale, 5 p.m.; No. 2 Riverview vs. No. 7 Alonso, 7 p.m.

    Thursday: Plant-Bloomingdale winner vs. Riverview-Alonso winner, 5 p.m.; No. 1 Newsome vs. Wharton-Durant winner, 7 p.m.

    Saturday: Final, 6

    The skinny: Newsome, Riverview and Plant all have a legit shot at reaching the postseason. The Sharks have been on a roll of late, winning eight of their last nine and the Panthers have been equally as impressive down the stretch, including a big win against Strawberry Crest. Newsome scuffled a little down the stretch but the Wolves are talented and capable of a deep postseason run.

    Player to watch: Newsome's Ajay Sequira is an exceptional striker but has been nursing a foot injury over the past few weeks. Coach Allen Ware said he hopes his senior forward, who has 25 goals this year, will be back this week.

    4A-9 at Plant City

    Tuesday: No. 2 Brandon vs. No. 7 Armwood, 3 p.m.; No. 4 East Bay vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay Tech, 5 p.m.; No. 3 Plant City vs. No. 6 Hillsborough, 7 p.m.

    Wednesday: No. 1 Strawberry Crest vs. East Bay-TBT winner, 5 p.m.; Plant City-Hillsborough winner vs. Brandon-Armwood winner, 7 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The skinny:

    Player to watch: Strawberry Crest is the class of this district but the real competition will be which team gets the second playoff berth. Brandon, East Bay, Plant City and TBT were all bunched together in the regular-season district race and even Hillsborough played the Chargers to a draw this year.

    4A-8 at Gaither

    Wednesday: No. 4 Freedom vs. No. 5 Wiregrass Ranch, 6 p.m.; No. 3 Gaither vs. No. 6 Chamberlain, 8 p.m.

    Friday: No. 1 Sickles vs. Freedom-Wiregrass winner, 6 p.m.; No. 2 Steinbrenner vs. Gaither-Chamberlain winner, 8 p.m.

    Saturday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The skinny: This shapes up as the toughest district in the area and one of the stingier in the state. A coin flip decided the No. 1 seed and all the teams in the district — save a weak Chamberlain team — could capture one of the final slots that would send them to the playoffs.

    Player to watch: Thiago Silveira is Sickles' backbone. The Gryphons' captain is the connector through the midfield and is dangerous on set pieces.

    Class 3A-9 at Lennard

    Tuesday: No. 1 Jesuit vs. No. 8 Middleton, 6 p.m.; No. 2 King vs. No. 7 Jefferson, 8 p.m.

    Wednesday: No. 4 Leto vs. No. 5 Spoto, 6 p.m.; No. 3 Lennard vs. No. 6 Robinson, 8 p.m.

    Thursday: Jesuit-Middleton winner vs. Leto-Spoto winner, 6 p.m.; King-Jefferson winner vs. Lennard-Robinson winner, 8 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The skinny: Jesuit has long been the team to beat in this district but an interesting battle looks to be shaping up in the semifinals. Lennard and King both had solid seasons. The Longhorns and King both played the Tigers to a draw this season.

    Player to watch: Forward Eric Mubang leads the Tigers in goals with 13 and is second on the club with seven assists.

    2A-9 at Tampa Catholic

    Wednesday: No. 1 Berkeley Prep vs. No. 4 Clearwater Central Catholic, 5 p.m.; No. 2 Tampa Catholic vs. St. Petersburg Catholic, 7 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The skinny: The good news for these four teams is that it only takes one win in the semifinals to secure a postseason slot. The Bucs and Crusaders played to a 3-3 draw this season and should have a shot at undoing that tie in the district finals.

    Player to watch: Daniel Felman is the key to Berkeley Prep's attack. The junior has reached double digits in goals (17) and assists (10).

    1A-7 with semifinals and finals at Tampa Prep

    Tuesday: No. 8 Academy of the Lakes at No. 1 Tampa Prep, time to be determined; No. 5 Cambridge Christian at No. 4 Carrollwood Day School, TBD; No. 7 Seffner Christian at No. 2 Calvary Christian, TBD; No. 6 Bishop McLaughlin at No. 3 Indian Rocks Christian, TBD

    Wednesday: Seffner Christian-Calvary Christian winner vs. Bishop McLaughlin-IRC winner, 5 p.m.; Tampa Prep-Academy of the Lakes winner vs. Cambridge Christian-IRC winner, 7 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The skinny: Tampa Prep beat the second and third seeded teams by a combined 13-1 during the regular season so barring a miracle, the Terps will advance to the playoffs. IRC lost to Calvary Christian 1-0 early in the season and those two teams figure to battle it out for the other slot, but don't count out a game CDS side.

    Player to watch: Tampa Prep striker Shaddy Douidar is a fleet-footed forward who has 24 goals for the defending state champs.


    DANIEL WALLACE   |   Times (2012)DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2012)

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    TAMPA — Anders Lindback claims he does not get nervous before games.

    No butterflies, no anxiety, nothing.

    "I don't know why," the Lightning goaltender said. "It's always been like that. I'm just more excited. It's just fun."

    That quirky little trait should come in handy tonight when the Lightning opens its lockout-shortened, 48-game season at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the Capitals.

    Because all indications are Lindback will get the start, beginning Tampa Bay's plan to develop the 6-foot-6 Swede, acquired last summer from the Predators, into its long-term solution in net.

    That Lindback, 24, will play is not official. Coach Guy Boucher said Friday he still had to discuss it with his staff.

    But Boucher had a long talk with Lindback on the ice after Friday's practice then said, generally, "He's a young goaltender that needs to see some games and some ice."

    Whether Boucher goes with Lindback or Mathieu Garon, goaltending is again a hot-button issue with the Lightning.

    Yes, the additions of blue-liners Sami Salo and Matt Carle will help tighten the team's overall defensive package that last season was porous, to say the least. But that will mean nothing if the goalies can't stop the puck.

    In 2011-12, Garon and Dwayne Roloson combined for a 3.34 goals-against average and .889 save percentage, both league worsts; even more disappointing because the team missed the playoffs by just eight points.

    "The goaltending was not as sharp as it should have been last year," Garon said.

    Indeed, all Garon needed was a relatively average .903 save percentage during a 17-game streak (before a March 6 groin tear ended his season) to go 12-3-2 and push Tampa Bay back into the playoff race.

    Add that a league-most 18 goalies have played for the Lightning since Nikolai Khabibulin led it to the 2003-04 Stanley Cup title, and even Garon understands why goaltending gets so much scrutiny here.

    "Of course," he said. "Unless you have a Marty Brodeur, who has been for 15 years solid with a team, it's always going to be a question mark."

    Is Lindback, who has played just 38 NHL games in a two-year career spent as the backup to Nashville's Pekka Rinne, ready to provide some answers?

    "It's what I've always wanted," he said. "That's why I worked to get this chance, this opportunity, to battle for the No. 1 starting job. I want to come here and prove myself and help this team win games."

    "He's very athletic," said Salo, who with the Canucks saw Lindback several times. "He doesn't force himself out of the net, and he has quick feet for a big goalie."

    And, oh, yeah, Salo said, "He's very calm."

    Not only when it comes to suppressing his nerves, but in that there is little wasted motion when he plays.

    "It's something I do to save energy, be ready for those third-period shots," Lindback said.

    As for his lack of butterflies, he said, "I can't remember the last time I was really nervous before a game. It's more excitement for me. I see everything as a chance.

    "I'm ready to go," he added. "I feel good."

    MOVES: Forwards Mike Angelidis, Kyle Wilson and J.T. Wyman cleared waivers and were reassigned to AHL Syracuse. Defenseman Matt Taormina also cleared but because of an undisclosed injury sustained during training camp was not reassigned and was placed on injured reserve.

    Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.


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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday, a woeful start to the season for the world's top two players.

    Woods missed it after he was penalized two shots for wrongly taking a free drop; top-ranked McIlroy was frustrated trying to adjust to his new Nike clubs, even though he used his old Titleist putter in the second round. Both finished with 3-over 75s.

    "When you don't hit fairways on this golf course, you can't score," McIlroy said.

    Justin Rose played solid, mistake-free golf. Away from the large galleries, the Englishman shot 69 for 8-under 136 and a one-shot lead at the halfway point over Jamie Donaldson (70) of Wales, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (67) of Spain and Thorbjorn Olesen (69) of Denmark.

    Woods and McIlroy were expected to contend in the PGA Europe event but often looked like weekend golfers. Their struggles captivated the crowds, and their departure means it's the first time the world's top two missed a cut in the same tournament since McIlroy and Luke Donald at the last year's U.S. Open. The last time in a regular tournament was 2005 by Woods and Vijay Singh at Disney World.

    "I didn't hit it particularly well. I putted great but just didn't hit it very good," Woods said. "I have some work to do, and next week I'm playing at Torrey (in San Diego), and obviously it will be different weather there, so going to go back and get ready."

    Woods thought he was safe in finishing Round 2 with 73, but he was advised by European Tour chief referee Andy McFee of the penalty, giving him 75 for 3-over 147. The cut was 2 over.

    McFee said he warned Woods on the 11th tee of the penalty, a result of his taking a free drop when his ball was embedded in sand and not in vines as it appeared.

    "I called Martin (Kaymer) over to verify the ball was embedded. We both agreed it was embedded and evidently it was in sand," Woods said of the infraction that happened when his drive on No. 5 landed in a bed of vines. "Andy ruled I broke an infraction, consequently got a two-shot penalty. Andy feels the way he feels about it and I broke the rules."

    Kaymer said he thought the ball was embedded and was surprised to hear of the ruling.

    "I didn't know about it, and he obviously didn't know about it, otherwise he wouldn't have done it," Kaymer said.

    McFee said Woods didn't challenge him on the ruling. It came to light when a spectator alerted the tour to the infraction, he said. After the drop, a reporter heard spectators questioning whether the drop was appropriate.

    McIlroy posted a second straight 75 for 6-over 150. Even a switch to his old putter for the second round didn't help. He putted poorly, flubbed several chips and drove erratically.

    "I didn't putt well again, so they were the two areas of the game; nothing was really on" he said. "One of those things. I've got a few weeks off to work at it and try and get my game in decent shape for the U.S."

    PGA: James Hahn and Roberto Castro remained atop the Humana Challenge leaderboard, shooting 5-under 67 for 14-under 130 at the pro-am event in La Quinta, Calif. They began the round tied for the lead with Jason Kokrak. Hahn had four birdies, an eagle and a bogey at La Quinta CC. Castro had the lead alone at 16 under but bogeyed two of his last three holes on PGA West's Arnold Palmer Private Course. Phil Mickelson shot 67 after opening with 72, nine behind the leaders and two off today's projected cut.

    Champions: David Frost shot 7-under 65 for a one shot lead after the opening round of the Mitsubishi Electric Champion­ship in Ka'upulehu-Kona, Hawaii. Fred Couples and Tom Kite led a group of six at 66.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    GAINESVILLE — Florida redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker was suspended from the team after his arrest earlier this week, coach Will Muschamp announced Friday.

    Dunker was charged with driving with a suspended license and grand theft after he was stopped while driving a motor scooter without a valid vehicle registration tag. The scooter had been reported stolen. Dunker denied he stole the scooter, saying he paid for it.

    "I suspended him from all team activities until we get more information," Muschamp said.

    MOVING ON: The Gators will lose three players from last season's roster, although each has eligibility remaining. Redshirt junior defensive end Kedric Johnson and redshirt junior receiver Stephen Alli will graduate in the spring and will not return. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan, who has had multiple shoulder injuries, applied for a medical exemption, which would allow him to retain his scholarship even though he's unable to play.

    USF staff adds two

    TAMPA — USF coach Willie Taggart added two assistants to his staff, both known as top recruiters, with former South Carolina assistant David Reaves taking over the receivers and defensive line coach Eric Mathies becoming the fourth assistant from Taggart's Western Kentucky staff to join the Bulls.

    Reaves, who worked at IMG Academy in Bradenton in 2012, has recruited the Tampa area for years and was a Tampa Catholic assistant in 2001. He's the son of former Gators and Tampa Bay Bandits quarterback John Reaves. Mathies was Taggart's recruiting coordinator at WKU.

    Schiano owes Rutgers

    Bucs coach Greg Schiano must pay Rutgers the $300,000 balance of an interest-free loan he got to build a home in Piscataway, N.J.

    Schiano, who coached the Scarlet Knights for 11 seasons before taking the Bucs job in January 2012, owes the loan's balance by Jan. 26, according to university spokesman E.J. Miranda.

    Schiano, 46, has been trying to sell the house since April and has cut the price twice, to $1.95 million from $2.3 million.

    The coach bought land from the university and was given the $800,000 loan from the athletic department in 2007. Under the agreement, the school forgave $100,000 of the loan each season he remained as coach, with any balance remaining when he resigned due one year later.

    Delaware: Rutgers offensive coordinator Dave Brock, 46, was hired as the new head coach.

    Times staff writer Greg Auman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the California man suspected of being behind the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax, confessed in early December to fooling the Notre Dame star linebacker, ESPN's Outside the Lines reported Friday.

    A woman, whom the show did not identify because she said she feared for her family's safety due to the story's attention, told Outside the Lines she was a church friend of Tuiasosopo's and he gave her an account of how he played what he said was at first a game on the unsuspecting Te'o. She said that Tuiasosopo told her it wasn't the first time he had done it and that Te'o, 21, had no knowledge of the hoax.

    The website Deadspin first reported Wednesday that it could find no record of Lennay Kekua, Te'o's girlfriend, existing. Te'o's ascendancy to national star and Heisman Trophy candidate was propelled by the personal backdrop of a girlfriend, Kekua, who died from leukemia in September.

    Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a news conference Wednesday that coaches were informed by Te'o and his parents on Dec. 26 that Te'o had been the victim of what appeared to be a hoax. Someone using a fictitious name "apparently ingratiated herself" with Te'o, the school said, then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had died.

    Swarbrick said the relationship took place online and over the phone. Te'o had described staying on the phone with whom he thought was Kekua for hours each night over many months. Tuiasosopo's friend told ESPN that Tuiasosopo admitted to having his female cousin speak to Te'o over the phone.

    The woman said she worries about Tuiasosopo's guilt over what he did to Te'o and his family name, one of the most prominent in all of Polynesian sports.

    ESPN interviewed two other people — J.R. Vaosa, 28, of Torrance, Calif., and Celeste Tuioti-Mariner, 21, of Whittier, Calif. — who said they have a cousin who had the same online hoax pulled on them by Tuiasosopo in 2008.

    On Friday morning in Bradenton, Te'o met with family members and a team of advisers who are trying to determine the best way for him to address the controversy, ESPN reported. Te'o is at the IMG Academy preparing for the NFL draft.

    In other developments:

    • Te'o has told family and friends that the woman who was the voice of his fictitious girlfriend called him in December and said she had to fake her own death months earlier to elude drug dealers, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

    Te'o said the woman tried to re-engage a relationship with him months after she supposedly had died, the Star-Advertiser reported. Te'o asked the woman to transmit a photo to him with a date stamp, which she did, but that did not allay his suspicions and he later told his family and Notre Dame officials about being duped. The account does not give the date of the call but Swarbrick said that the woman contacted Te'o on Dec. 6, while he was in Florida for an ESPN awards show.

    "He received a phone call from a number that he recognized as having been associated with Lennay Kekua," Swarbrick said. "When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same person that he had talked to, who told him she was, in fact, not dead."

    • Several TV reports, including Inside Edition, have identified the woman in the photo that had been posted on Kekua's Facebook page as Diane O'Meara, a 23-year-old who works in marketing. She has said the photo was used without her permission and she was not involved.

    • Swarbrick is encouraging Te'o to speak publicly, saying he believes Te'o has to explain exactly how he was duped into the entire situation. Swarbrick said school officials would rather see Te'o talk about it "sooner rather than later."

    • Te'o quietly began dating a woman shortly after he learned "Kekua" had died, website TMZ reported. Te'o met Alexandra del Pilar, 21, a student at St. Mary's College, an all-girls school near Notre Dame, the weekend of Nov. 10. Te'o and Pilar dated for nearly two months but broke up recently, TMZ said. There are photos on Pilar's Twitter feed, USA Today reported, showing her and Te'o sitting on Santa's lap together around Christmas.


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    . Tonight

    Lightning vs. Capitals

    When/where: 7; Tampa Bay Times Forum

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Lightning is 11-6-0 with two ties in opening games and 10-6-1 with two ties in home openers. … Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin has 28 goals and 62 points in 47 career games against Tampa Bay. … Lightning C Steven Stamkos had five goals and eight points in six games last season against Washington. … Tampa Bay won all three home games last season against the Capitals.


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    By Don Jensen, Times Correspondent
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    ST. PETERSBURG — As he reflected on his most recent kennel title, Cal Holland Jr. looked toward the grandstand at Derby Lane. Several decades ago he sat in those upper-level seats, clocking greyhounds in unofficial schooling races for his grandfather.

    "We were just kids back then," Holland said.

    Now 47, Holland has gone from grandstand to grandeur. In the past 87 years at Derby Lane, no one has won more races in one year than Holland, who enters his second season as the manager-trainer for Patriot kennel.

    "I knew (the Patriot job) would be good, but I didn't know it would be this great," he said. "That's why I took this job: to win races, to be first (in the standings), and to do the best job I could."

    Patriot's second consecutive kennel championship and third overall was practically a carbon copy of its previous one. Led by top dog and All-America candidate Venus Espinosa, Patriot won the six-month meet (ended Dec. 31) with 325 victories, 64 ahead of McAllister. While the total fell short of its track-record 333 wins in the January-to-June meet (Patriot beat McAllister by 63), the kennel won 658 races in 4,668 starts over 12 months to set a record for victories during that span. McAllister held the previous mark with 643 wins from 3,182 starts in 2007-08.

    "Quality and quantity are foremost," Holland said. "My boss (Vinny Savill of Whitman, Mass.) supplies me with great dogs, and I believe in keeping as many active dogs (68) as I can. I am very hands-on and I'm trying to get my help to be very hands-on."

    Venus Espinosa won top-dog status with 26 victories from 41 starts, highlighted by a win in the $50,000 Fall Sprint Stakes on Sept. 29. The 39-month-old male out of a litter by Kiowa Mon Manny and Sol Venus put together a nine-race win streak that started in his final start of the previous meet, and clocked two of the top four 550-yard times (30.40 and 30.46 seconds). Venus Espinosa was nearly retired with an ankle injury before returning in April.

    Holland said Venus Espinosa, who goes for his 50th career victory Monday in the $10,000 Matinee Idol Stakes (Race 10, 2:47 p.m.), is one of the best dogs he has worked with. Others were Joe Hearns of Floyd & Porter kennel, and Alabama Tide and Evening Memory, both associated with his father, Cal Holland.

    "Venus Espinosa is one very special animal," Cal Jr. said.

    Brothers Art Allen (14 wins) and Art Alex (12) gave Patriot three of the top nine winners at the meet. The best times were clocked by Lester Raines' Mrl No Access (30.39 seconds at 550 yards) and Pauline O'Donnell's Tmc's Roxslide (37.24 at 660).

    HORSES: Tampa Bay Downs leading operation Midwest Thoroughbreds is a top candidate to win an Eclipse Award for owner tonight at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.


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