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Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher fears long lockout but tries to stay optimistic

ST. PETERSBURG — The unfortunate reality of the NHL lockout hit Lightning coach Guy Boucher on Friday morning, when the team was supposed to begin training camp.

Boucher and his staff took their annual physicals — and there were no players.

"That's not what we wanted," Boucher said before "shooting" the ceremonial first pitch at the Rays-Blue Jays game at the Trop. "Fans don't want that. Everyone wants to play, owners want (to), players want (to). I think there's goodwill on both sides, and I'm sure they're going to find a way. If it's quick, I don't think we've lost much. But obviously, if it takes longer, it's not what everybody wants."

Boucher said he believes there will be a season of some kind but is concerned about a lengthy lockout: "I'd be a liar to say I'm not afraid. Everybody is afraid. … The organization from top to bottom are very enthusiastic about the momentum we've got with our fans and the building and the new players we added this summer. There's so much positive stuff going on for us, it'd be sad if it'd be a long (lockout). But I'm staying very positive that it will be done."

Boucher and his staff will continue their preparation. He plans to watch some of their top prospects at AHL Syracuse. Several Lightning players are considering playing overseas, which Boucher said is "their prerogative."

"It's a little nerve-wrecking," he said. "If somebody gets injured, it's not what you want. But … they have the right to choose whatever they want for their own lives right now."

STAMKOS NEGOTIATING: Steven Stamkos has not decided to play in Europe, agent Mark Guy said. But Guy confirmed that Switzerland's HC Lugano is one of "many teams" that have reached out to him.

MINOR MOVES: Syracuse signed defensemen Evan Oberg and Matt Taormina, and forwards Mike Angelidis and Pierre-Cedric Labrie to minor-league contracts. The deals allow the players, who have two-way contracts with the Lightning, to play for the Crunch during the lockout without passing through waivers. Tampa Bay also is talking to defenseman Keith Aulie about such a deal.

Lockout Day 6: If a collective bargaining agreement isn't reached by early November, commissioner Gary Bettman plans to cancel the Jan. 1 Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs in Detroit to take away any bargaining advantage the players may have because of the outdoor game's popularity, the Toronto Star reported. The league, union and Leafs general manager Brian Burke declined to comment. Detroit senior vice president Jimmy Devellano said the team is in wait-and-see mode.

Times staff writer Damiano Cristodero contributed to this report, which also used information from Times wires.

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher fears long lockout but tries to stay optimistic 09/21/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 21, 2012 10:21pm]

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