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Sale of Tampa Bay Lightning could be announced today

TAMPA — It was not a done deal, at least by late Thursday, but there apparently is a tentative agreement in the proposed sale of the Lightning to Boston hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik.

The participants weren't talking, and neither was the team, but the process being played out in the NHL's New York offices is in its final stages, and an announcement could come today.

Once a purchase agreement is signed, the transaction still has to close. With Vinik believed to be paying cash, the process should go smoothly.

The league's Board of Governors also must approve the transfer of ownership from OK Hockey. But with commissioner Gary Bettman pushing the deal, and with the promise of financial stability for a troubled franchise, there should be little, if any, opposition.

If Vinik, 50, takes over, he will be a sole proprietor, meaning co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie and six limited partners will have no role.

Players and coaches said they are aware of the pending sale but don't spend much time talking about it.

"I don't know if the guys are talking about it at Starbucks, but in the room I haven't heard it," coach Rick Tocchet said. "It's just something I don't want in the room. We shouldn't be talking about ownership and what's going to happen on a game day or practice day. We have too much going on right now."

Indeed, if the season ended after Thursday's victory over the Islanders, Tampa Bay would be in the playoffs.

"It's my job to keep the bubble around us," Tocchet said. "Any good team or any team that is in a playoff run, you insulate yourself from all that stuff. You have to, because if you let things creep in, it's excuses and distractions."

Besides, D Mattias Ohlund said, "We can't control it. The only thing we can control is the hockey games.

"There's some talk. It's not like the guys don't listen to what's going on. The guys read the papers and have a pretty good idea. But we have to focus on the stuff we can control, and that's playing hockey games. If we do that, it will benefit everybody, not just ownership."

HAMMER TIME: C Steven Stamkos said it was nice to get his 30th goal just two games after scoring his 29th.

"You get that monkey off your back quick," he said. "You get it out of the way, and you can focus on winning."

With two goals and an assist against the Islanders, Stamkos, a.k.a the Hammer, has five goals and eight assists in an eight-game points streak, tying a career best.

"He's at a point when there are lulls in the game and he's not playing well, he sees a chance, and he's fast enough and his shot is good enough, he can change the game for you," Tocchet said.

"He's a weapon and very confident right now."

ODDS AND ENDS: LW Marty St. Louis has goals in five straight games, tying a career best. … D Victor Hedman was plus-4. ... F Paul Szczechura, with AHL Norfolk on a conditioning assignment, was put on waivers. We will know at noon today if he cleared. … RW Brandon Bochenski was scratched.

Sale of Tampa Bay Lightning could be announced today 02/04/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 5, 2010 12:35am]

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