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Tampa Bay Lightning doing fine financially, commissioner Gary Bettman says

RALEIGH, N.C. — OK Hockey has restructured its $70 million financing agreement with the former owner. It is asking St. Pete Times Forum employees to pay $30 a month to park and help pay a $250,000 yearly lease on the lot across the street from the arena.

And despite giving away an average of 2,500 tickets, Tampa Bay's announced average attendance of 16,231 is 2,461 fewer than last season.

Even so, commissioner Gary Bettman shrugged off the seeming indicators of difficult financial times.

"You make it sound as if the club is in some sort of trouble. It's not," Bettman said Friday. "(Owner Oren Koules) is completely confident, and I have no reason to give you any sense that would undermine the confidence that he's conveying to you."

The bottom-line source of Bettman's confidence, though, seems to be the financing deal with ex-owner Bill Davidson's Palace Sports & Entertainment.

"It's no secret that they did some financing on the deal, which is a good thing," Bettman said. "It means the franchise is in solid financial condition."

Is ownership?

Koules recently told ESPN.com: "Are we making money? No. But are we bleeding like most people think we are? Of course not."

"Listen, you have very committed owners there," said Bettman, who described the refinancing meeting he attended as positive. "They are passionate about the club, and they want to make sure this team is performing on and off the ice as well as possible.

"But with new owners, in any sport, there's always a learning curve, and when you make a lot of changes, people sometimes tend to make judgments before you see the full effects. … I'm not talking just about Tampa. I'm talking about any club. Sometimes you make decisions that don't work out as you had hoped. You adjust. You make good decisions and do other things."

Recchi upset: RW Mark Recchi did not hide his displeasure at being a healthy scratch for the first time this season, even though coach Rick Tocchet said it was to give the 41-year-old a break in the second of back-to-back games.

"He could probably play," Tocchet said. "There's nothing really wrong. It's more body maintenance than anything. … For the good of him, I'd like to see him get a rest."

Recchi has 12 goals, is third on the team with 25 assists and 37 points, and is averaging 16:52 of ice time, but he has played more in eight of the past 10 games. He also played in all of Tampa Bay's previous 58 games.

"Here's a guy who was supposed to play 60 games for us," Tocchet said.

With the March 4 trade deadline looming, it is feasible Tampa Bay was showcasing other players, and the Oilers, Stars, Penguins, Flyers, Kings and Red Wings had scouts at the game.

Just don't tell Recchi he's tired.

"I had five scoring chances (Thursday) night," he said of the game with the Devils. "You don't get that if you're tired."

Odds and ends: C Jeff Halpern's second-period assist was his first point in 12 games. … With 21 goals on 92 shots, LW Ryan Malone entered the game second in the league with a 22.8 shooting percentage.

Tampa Bay Lightning doing fine financially, commissioner Gary Bettman says 02/20/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 6:27am]
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