Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming says focus is family, team after brain tumor diagnosis

TAMPA — Wayne Fleming did not travel for Games 1 and 2 of the Lightning's first-round playoff series with the Penguins.

But the assistant coach, diagnosed last week with a malignant brain tumor, will be "a big inspiration," W Dana Tyrell said.

"He's been our coach all year," Tyrell said. "We're going to try to win it for him."

Fleming, 60, who had a biopsy Thursday, said Tuesday he feels "pretty good."

He watched practice from the St. Pete Times Forum stands, met with coaches and players, and had a bright smile as he spoke publicly for the first time about his condition.

"We're just waiting for the biopsy results to come back," Fleming said. "Once we identify what's going on, we'll have a plan of action to take it on. … You can't worry about it. The biggest thing is my family and the team. That's my focus."

"He's living something very difficult," coach Guy Boucher said. "The way he's living it is inspiring."

Two days after his biopsy, Fleming watched on television Saturday's season finale against the Hurricanes and sent by text message observations to Boucher between periods. Sunday and Monday, he spent several hours with Boucher at the Times Forum looking at video, and Monday he met with the players at a team lunch for the first time since the diagnosis.

"It was emotional," he said. "The response you got from the guys was a sincere approach, so it was good."

Fleming said it is "disappointing more than hard" to miss the games in Pittsburgh, and he couldn't say enough about "the quality of support" he has received from the organization.

"You still feel very involved and very much a part of it," Fleming said. "Hopefully I can make contributions as we move through this one."

"He'll be sitting at home and watching on TV," GM Steve Yzerman said. "You get a different viewpoint. He'll see a lot of different things. He's a valuable asset."

And an inspiration.

"What he's gone though the last couple of weeks is incredible," D Pavel Kubina said. "The guys care so much about him."

"He's part of the team," Tyrell said. "Every game is for him."

JONES A MAYBE: D Randy Jones, out 16 games with a high ankle sprain, is available for today's Game 1, but Boucher said Jones "more likely" is a scratch.

Jones seemed resigned to being out.

"It's 15 games I missed," he said. "To go right back into a game, and a playoff game at that, after one or two practices with the team, who knows? But I want to play. I want to get out there."

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Even if Jones is scratched, Boucher, with eight other defensemen on the roster, will have decisions to make, especially if, as expected, he plays with 12 forwards and six defensemen.

"I hate that part," Boucher said. "Somebody works hard, deserves to be in the lineup, but somebody else deserves it a little more."

Most vulnerable seem to be Matt Smaby, who did not practice Tuesday because of a lower-body injury, and Marc-Andre Bergeron, a power-play specialist who has one point in his past 16 games and is minus-10.

NEW ADDITION: D Eric Brewer said he didn't get much power play time the past year and a half with the Blues, from whom he was acquired in February. So getting the chance with Tampa Bay is "great."

"Any time you're in that position to get some more time in the offensive zone, it's going to help your even-strength game as well," he said.

"What I like about Brewer," Boucher said, "is if he's in trouble, he doesn't panic and he doesn't give it to the opponent."

But Boucher said adding a defenseman to the power play has nothing to do with the league-worst 16 shorthanded goals Tampa Bay has allowed.

"That's an awareness more than the type of person that's on the blue line," Boucher said. "It's just being too relaxed out there."

ODDS AND ENDS: Brick House Tavern, 1102 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, is the Lightning's official watch party location. Check tampabay.com/blogs/lightning for other locations. ... Between 4,000 and 5,000 tickets remain for Games 3 and 4 at the Times Forum.

Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming says focus is family, team after brain tumor diagnosis 04/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:43pm]

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