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Tampa Bay Lightning's injured Vinny Lecavalier returns to practice, will travel

TAMPA — If all goes to plan, captain Vinny Lecavalier will play on the Lightning's three-game road trip that starts Monday in Philadelphia.

The center, wearing a red no-contact jersey, skated Saturday for the first time with teammates since fracturing his right hand Feb. 18 against the Capitals. "It felt a little better," Lecavalier said. "But the strength in the hand is not there yet."

Even so, "when I'm ready to play, I want to play," he said. "That's why I'm joining the team (on the road trip). I don't want to set any dates, but I want to start practicing with the team and get the feel of the game. I want to play as soon as possible."

Lecavalier, 31, has missed 15 games since taking a puck off the back of his hand, breaking the bone next to one that had to be surgically repaired last season.

Lecavalier has 21 goals and 46 points in 58 games and an average 19:04 of ice time, so his absence left a huge hole in the lineup, forcing players such as Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Teddy Purcell and Ryan Malone to play extra minutes.

That only eight games are left raises the question of whether to just shut Lecavalier down, a notion the player and coach Guy Boucher shot down. "Our mentality," Boucher said, "is every game we want to put our best team on the ice."

"The guys have been working so hard, so as soon as I'm ready, I want to play, even if there's seven, five, three games," Lecavalier said.

WHAT'S IN A LOGO? The NCAA banned North Dakota from using its Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian-head logo during NCAA-sanctioned events, including the national playoffs that conclude with the Frozen Four at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "It's disappointing on a personal level," said D Mike Commodore, who played for UND from 1997-2000. "I was proud to play for the Fighting Sioux."

But D Brian Lee, a Fighting Sioux from 2005-07, said because the nickname and logo prevent in some cases North Dakota teams from playing opponents who believe the monikers are demeaning to American Indians, it's time to "move on."

"For the sake of the other sports, you have to make a choice," Lee said.

20 STRAIGHT: Alex Picard's goal with 6:55 left in the third period was the winner as AHL Norfolk extended its league-record winning streak to 20 games, 4-3 over Albany.

ODDS AND ENDS: Tampa Bay blocked 25 shots against the Islanders. … G Dwayne Roloson played his 600th NHL game. … There was a big ovation for the USF men's basketball team in attendance. … Commodore, forwards Nate Thompson (upper body), Ryan Shannon (shoulder) and Adam Hall (upper body), and G Mathieu Garon (groin) were the scratches.

Tampa Bay Lightning's injured Vinny Lecavalier returns to practice, will travel 03/24/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 11:47pm]
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