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Lecavalier feels "pretty good" after first game back

BERLIN, Germany — Vinny Lecavalier said he felt "comfortable" in his first preseason game.

The Lightning captain played plenty in Sunday's 4-1 win against Berlin Eisbaren, even strength and on special teams. He did not get a point, made a few crisp plays and at least proved to himself his surgically repaired right shoulder can survive on the ice.

"I felt pretty good," said Lecavalier, who had arthroscopic surgery in April to repair a torn glenoid labrum. "Not great, but considering I hadn't played a game in (almost) six months, I felt my head was up high. I was pretty aware on the ice. I found my way quicker than the usual first game."

It was not a physical game, and Lecavalier said he "never got hit hard." Still, he said it was "a good test." Depending on today's evaluation, he is expected to play in Tuesday's preseason finale in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The rink in Bratislava, like Berlin, has the wider international ice.

"It's gigantic out there," coach Barry Melrose said. "Vinny had to do a lot of skating, which was very good. Obviously, his hands aren't what they should be yet. The great news is he had to work hard. We got him a lot of ice time, and he did a lot of skating. That's going to help his conditioning. Playing in this rink really made him skate."

MORE NEXT YEAR: Up to eight teams could open next season in Europe, NHL Players Association executive director Paul Kelly said, and cities such as Helsinki, Finland and Moscow could be in the mix. "This is not a flash in the pan for us," he said.

WORLD CUP: The plan is to hold the event either in August or September 2011 and every four years thereafter, Kelly said. The tournament has been intermittent, with seven since 1976.

Kelly said the tournament, if held, will not preclude the NHL's participation in the Olympics, though there is no commitment past 2010 in Vancouver. Kelly said the players are "strongly in favor" of participating in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

Finally, Kelly said having an NHL European Division is, at best, five to 10 years away. Though he said, "Putting a franchise in Europe makes sense for a lot of reasons" — marketing, promotional, financial and game growth — "no one has talked in any concrete terms about it."

PUNCHING BAG: LW Ryan Malone got 19 minutes in penalties 9:14 into the third period — two for instigating, two for high-sticking, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct — after beating down Berlin's Richie Regehr.

Malone said he wasn't quite sure at the time why he went after Regehr. He said he saw rookie Steven Stamkos on the ice and Regehr "looking around like he was guilty."

"It's just the way you have to play," Malone said. "You can't let people take liberties on your best players."

ODDS AND ENDS: With two more minor penalties, RW Evgeny Artyukhin has eight in five games. … The experiment with Artyukhin on Stamkos' line did not last long. Radim Vrbata was back by the second period.

Lecavalier feels "pretty good" after first game back 09/28/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 29, 2008 7:28am]

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