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Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger looks good, keeps up his guard



Paul Ranger showed up at the St. Pete Times Forum for the second straight day on Wednesday.

The first time, Tuesday, seemed behind the scenes. The team said he was collecting tax material. But on Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman, who has been on a leave of absence for personal reasons since Oct. 23, strolled through the hallway outside the locker room after practice, shaking hands and exchanging chit-chat.

There was not much conversation with reporters other than a smile, a greeting and a handshake. Any other questions, he just wasn't going to answer. Polite as always, though. And he looked fit and trim, as if he has been working out.

Exactly what is going on with Ranger has been one of the great mysteries of the season. Neither his parents, agent, teammates or friends have provided any information. Actually, his teammates, and coach Rick Tocchet, always have said they are not privy to the specifics of the situation. 

There is no doubt, though, that losing Ranger for the bulk of the season hurt the Lightning, which never did figure out how to efficiently get the puck out of its own end. Ranger could have helped there. Remember when he was a rookie and then-coach John Tortorella said Ranger already made one of the best passes out of the defensive zone? 

Ranger had two difficult summers as he rehabbed both shoulders, respectively, after arthroscopic surgeries. He also got off to a rough start this season.

Regardless of that it was good to see Ranger so engaged with his teammates and acting as if he was back among friends. But whether he still wants to play or has other avenues to pursue is for another day. Tocchet, after Tuesday's loss to the Hurricanes, said he spoke to Ranger briefly.

"I didn't get any insight," Tocchet said. "I just asked how he was."  

[Last modified: Friday, May 7, 2010 12:15am]


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