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AHL affiliate hopes to maintain ties with Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA — There have been only a handful of "brief" discussions and another year remains on their contract, but Ken Young, owner of the Lightning's AHL affiliate in Norfolk, Va., said he would like to keep his team tied to Tampa Bay.

"You see the blueprint. There's certainly much optimism about the entire organization," Young said Friday. "That optimism is one we'd like to be part of."

While making the playoffs for the first time in four years under the Lightning is notable, Young, who lives in Tampa, said the stewardship of Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Norfolk GM Julien BriseBois has been a "breath of fresh air" after the past two seasons under then-GM Brian Lawton.

"I'm sure he cared, but Brian didn't show a whole lot of care and thoughtfulness about his minor-league teams," Young said. "Steve is just the opposite; just a huge difference in direction and a huge difference in communication."

For example, Young said Yzerman and BriseBois voluntarily took over providing "additional jackets, sweatshirts, shoes and things" to the players.

"They wanted the players to have a certain feeling about the Lightning front office and ownership," Young added. "They wanted to implement things that made it better for the players."

And in the end, better for the Norfolk organization, which Young said saw attendance this season jump to an average of 4,500 from 3,625.

"Our fan base is more enthused than they have been in the last four years," Young said.

DILEMMA: Because tonight's regular-season finale against the Hurricanes won't affect home-ice advantage, coach Guy Boucher might sit or limit the minutes of some of his regulars, including C Steven Stamkos and W Marty St. Louis.

W Ryan Malone, still getting into shape after a groin injury, and D Victor Hedman, who is healthy enough to play but has a lower-body issue, are expected to sit. Call-ups from AHL Norfolk also are possible.

That might not go over too well with the Rangers, who are battling Carolina for the final playoff spot in the East. But Boucher, who admitted the situation is "touchy," said the focus has to be on his team.

"It has nothing to do with Carolina or the Rangers," he said. "We have to care about our team. We're going to the playoffs. We're going to think of our team (today)."

WHERE'S WAYNE? Assistant coach Wayne Fleming missed his fourth straight game. The team said it would provide details today.

ODDS AND ENDS: St. Louis' assist on Vinny Lecavalier's first goal was his career-best 66th. … Lecavalier is 1-for-3 on penalty shots this season. … The Lightning ended 25-11-5 at home. … D Eric Brewer played after missing two games with a lower-body injury and saw power play time. … G Mike Smith is expected to start against Carolina. … D Pavel Kubina played his 900th NHL game. … D Matt Smaby and D Randy Jones (ankle) also were scratched.

AHL affiliate hopes to maintain ties with Tampa Bay Lightning 04/08/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 9, 2011 1:23am]

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