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Melrose warns Lightning not to take Europe exhibitions lightly

Goalie Olaf Kolzig won a German elite league title with the team he faces today.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Goalie Olaf Kolzig won a German elite league title with the team he faces today.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — The last thing the Lightning should do is take lightly the Berlin Eisbarens, coach Barry Melrose said of the team Tampa Bay faces in an exhibition today in Germany.

He also warned about HC Slovan, the team the Lightning plays Tuesday in Slovakia

"Are you kidding?" he said. "That's their Stanley Cup."

It's a message Melrose said he will pound into his players' heads.

"You have to keep barking at them," he said. "You want them to compete. You want them to keep working on what you did in practice. It will certainly be something we talk about and monitor on the bench."

Olaf Kolzig agrees, and he should know. The Tampa Bay goaltender, today's starter, won a German elite league championship with the Eisbarens during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.

"They're a good hockey team," Kolzig said. "There's a reason they've won three championships in the last four years. They have great guys there. They're going to have a great crowd in a new building. We have to be ready to play.

"Good teams, they always set the tone. They never play to the level of their opponent, and that's what you have to develop. We're going to have nights when we're not going to be at our best. We have to raise our level. It's easy to get lulled, and the next thing you know, you're behind."

JUST DON'T BOO: The game is a big deal for Kolzig, a German citizen. "Other than my mother and brother, the rest of my family lives over there," he said. "I played for the national team a number of times. I'm really looking forward to it."

And he's curious about his reception.

"The worst thing that can happen is you're booed and have stuff thrown at you," Kolzig said.

LOST CHANCE: Vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said C Zenon Konopka, who will be sent to AHL Norfolk if he clears waivers, was a victim of his lower salary and two-way contract, which pays less if he is in the minors.

"Loved what he did," Lawton said of the hard-edged player who caught the imagination with his fists and passion.

"That was probably the worst day I've had in this business. Some guys have to pick it up or they won't be here. It's as simple as that. But they will get an extra opportunity because of their contract. You don't like to say that, but that's the reality of the National Hockey League. But it won't go on forever. Zenon will … be back because there are changes or injuries."

ICE CAPADES: The ice of Prague's O2 Arena is cluttered with 50 advertisements, standard procedure for the Czech elite league. It will be painted white for the Oct. 4 and 5 season-opening games with the Rangers. The NHL brought in ice guru Dan Craig to supervise. Craig previously worked for the Oilers, widely accepted as having the league's best ice.

ODDS AND ENDS: RW Radim Vrbata, with one preseason assist, was bumped off Steven Stamkos' line during practice and replaced by Evgeny Artyukhin. ... Czech native Vinny Prospal on Friday visited his mother, Kvetoslava Prospalova, who had surgery for varicose veins. He said she is home and doing well.

Melrose warns Lightning not to take Europe exhibitions lightly 09/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 29, 2008 3:13pm]
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