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Tampa Bay Lightning sends comfort, joy to ill assistant coach Wayne Fleming

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming returned home from the hospital, he had a surprise waiting: a reclining medical chair sent by Tampa Bay's players and a card filled with personal messages of encouragement.

Fleming, in Calgary being treated for brain cancer, had spent several weeks in the hospital. Assistant coach Dan Lacroix said his homecoming was described in a text message from Fleming's wife, Carolyn, as "the best medicine."

"Carolyn … was so happy the guys sent the card," Lacroix said Saturday. "It was very touching, and it was emotional."

The chair is built for comfort and designed to make it easier for Fleming to get in and out.

Fleming, 61, had surgery in April. He spent several months rehabilitating in a California hospital before going home to Calgary to continue treatment that includes chemotherapy, radiation and physical therapy.

"It's so hard for everybody," D Pavel Kubina said. "He's still a big part of this team. We know he is fighting."

And he is watching Lightning games on TV — now in a comfy chair — though GM Steve Yzerman has said Fleming generally has stopped sending text messages and emails with in-game observations. "But he sounds pretty good on the phone," Lacroix said. "He went home, and he's with his kid and grandkids. The whole family is there. It's like home for the holidays."

1,000 AND COUNTING: C Vinny Lecavalier presented Columbus forward and former Tampa Bay teammate Vinny Prospal with a framed Lightning jersey during a pregame ceremony to honor Prospal's 1,000th game.

Prospal hit the mark Nov. 25 against the Sabres, but the Blue Jackets delayed honoring him until the Lightning was in town. "It couldn't have worked out any better," Prospal said. "This is special. I'm just sorry (injured Lightning star Marty St. Louis) is not going to be here."

Prospal, 36, played 468 games — with 127 goals and 371 points — in three stints with Tampa Bay, more games than with any of the other six teams for which he has played. He has two homes in the Tampa area, where he said he eventually will retire. "We love the area," Prospal said. "It's just a great place."

Prospal's 26 points on seven goals, 19 assists, including two Saturday, lead Columbus.

"I've always said it: He's one of the most underrated players in the league," Lecavalier said. "He's probably the guy that works the hardest I've seen in my 13 years in the league. He's so hungry for success and to help his team out."

MEDICAL MATTERS: C Nate Thompson left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. ... D Matt Gilroy (lower body) was out. Bruno Gervais took his spot, and D Evan Oberg was called up from AHL Norfolk for the third time this month. "Just in case," coach Guy Boucher said. … St. Louis (facial injuries) was put on injured reserve.

ODDS AND ENDS: Kubina had a season-high 22:31 of ice time. … D Victor Hedman turns 21 today. … Lecavalier is on track for his 1,000th game March 6 at the St. Pete Times Forum against the Senators. … Oberg was scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning sends comfort, joy to ill assistant coach Wayne Fleming 12/17/11 [Last modified: Sunday, December 18, 2011 12:09am]
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