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Tampa Bay Lightning scratches healthy Steven Stamkos

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The question for Steven Stamkos: Is the glass half empty or half full?

The Lightning forward on Friday was named by the league to play in the YoungStars game Jan. 24 during All-Star weekend. He also for the first time in his career, at any level, was scratched.

"Obviously, it is a new experience for me," said Stamkos, who sat against the Ducks at Honda Center. "There's a first time for everything. I'll use it as a learning tool."

Coach Rick Tocchet said it is the beginning of a "process" whose goal is to increase Stamkos' strength so June's No. 1 draft choice, a svelte 6 feet, 180 pounds, can better handle the league's physical demands.

"We've got to start building his leg strength, and I want to start the process now instead of June or July," Tocchet said. "I personally think this will increase his development."

Tocchet said he expects Stamkos will play Monday at Los Angeles. But he said the 18-year-old will be scratched here and there to concentrate on conditioning and strength training — on the ice with assistant Wes Walz and in the weight room with strength coach Chuck Lobe.

Friday, he was on the ice with Tocchet, Walz and assistant Cap Raeder for an hour after the team skated.

"He's going to play a lot of games with us, but he'll get a lot of time in the gym," Tocchet said. "It's important for him to stay with that process rather than play as many games as possible, and I want to start the process right away."

Stamkos has struggled with a goal, three points and just 26 shots in his past 16 games. He also has had problems with puck possession and played just 10:49 in Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Coyotes.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Stamkos said. "But you have to try to draw a positive. You have to keep working harder than before. Obviously, it wasn't good enough if you're not playing. I have to change some things up, work even harder off the ice in practice. They explained to me their plan, and I'm going to follow it to the best of my capabilities."

Lecavalier RUMOR control: Vinny Lecavalier said he heard about the radio report out of Montreal that said the Lightning might be willing to trade him if it encountered financial problems.

"I don't think it's anything new," he said. "It's Montreal. It's Toronto. It's happened in the past."

Lecavalier, 28, signed an 11-year, $85-million extension with a no-move clause that takes effect July 1. He said he received assurances from owner Oren Koules that he would not be traded.

"Oren did tell me I wasn't getting traded when I signed this summer," Lecavalier said. "It's just Montreal. There are a lot of rumors going around."

Said his agent, Kent Hughes: "I don't know where these rumors are starting. We were assured they would not trade him if we agreed to extend his contract. We haven't heard anything else from them."

More RUMOR CONTROL: Rumors have swirled for months in Canada that OK Hockey is having financial problems and could miss a payment to Palace Sports & Entertainment, the primary lender in the group's $200-million purchase of the team.

But the Lightning denied the report, and Palace Sports CEO Tom Wilson said no payments have been missed.

"They're living up to everything they're supposed to," he said.

Return: F Paul Szczechura (leg) played after missing two games.

Tampa Bay Lightning scratches healthy Steven Stamkos 01/09/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 10:38pm]
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