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Sale of Tampa Bay Lightning to Jeff Vinik moves a step closer

ATLANTA — A marathon meeting in the NHL's New York offices that went into early Tuesday morning apparently moved Boston hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik a big step closer to his expected purchase of the Lightning.

It is unclear how much work remains. But co-owner Oren Koules was at the meeting that continued throughout the day, as were lawyers for Palace Sports & Entertainment, Barrie and Vinik.

It is not known to what degree Koules or Barrie will be involved, if at all, if a deal is completed, though the scuttlebutt is Vinik is not bringing in outside investors.

The deal also will include the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5½ acres around the arena. None involved were available for comment.

The Hockey News originally reported Vinik could ask Vinny Lecavalier to waive his no-move clause to cut costs. But that part of the story has lost steam since GM Brian Lawton said there are no plans to trade the captain, and Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, said no one has asked his client to consider a trade.

PLAYING HURT: Rookie D Victor Hedman said he was cut by a skate blade during Sunday's loss to the Capitals, and the gash on his left thigh above his knee required "eight to 10 stitches."

For a player trying to regain his early season form, the injury is annoying.

"I just want to feel 100 percent," he said. "I can still play. It's going to hurt a little, but I want to play and get my confidence back. This is no time to rest."

Hedman, 19, was without a point in eight games entering Tuesday, and was minus-4 in that stretch. But coach Rick Tocchet said the 6-foot-6 Swede is moving in the right direction, and he was plus-2 with 21:39 of ice time against the Thrashers.

"He had a little issue there and he came back," Tocchet said of the cut. "Some guys might not come back, he did. It shows you a lot about him. It's good to see a kid play with bumps and bruises."

THOMPSON SHINES: C Nate Thompson has played extremely well since being claimed off waivers from the Islanders and was rewarded Tuesday with a third-line assignment between LW Ryan Malone and Jeff Halpern.

In five games, Thompson has zero points but nine shots and has won 36 of 49 faceoffs (73.5 percent), including 13 of 14 Friday against the Ducks. He also is a mainstay on the penalty kill.

"He's got the puck out under duress situations, something we struggled with," Tocchet said. "He's as good as anybody I've seen this year for us."

FUTURE WATCH: GM Brian Lawton said he will push over the summer to bring Russian G Vasily Koshechkin to North America. The 6-foot-6, 210-pounder, drafted 233rd overall in 2002, is 14-6 for Metallurg with five shutouts, a 1.79 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. On Tuesday, he was named the KHL's goalie of the week.

ODDS AND ENDS: D Kurtis Foster broke a pane of glass with a slap shot for the fourth time in five games. … Malone tied a season high with seven shots. … Former Lightning G Karri Ramo was one of six stars named after the KHL All-Star Game in Russia. … RW Brandon Bochenski was scratched.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Sale of Tampa Bay Lightning to Jeff Vinik moves a step closer 02/02/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 3, 2010 12:01am]

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