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Tortorella to lean on Sullivan in assembling U.S. team

TAMPA — Lightning coach John Tortorella said he will "lean on Sully" when he and associate coach Mike Sullivan hold training camp for the U.S. world championship team.

Sullivan coached the 2007 team, the first to feature a fresh crop of U.S.-born players without such former mainstays as Bill Guerin, Mike Modano, Derian Hatcher and Jeremy Roenick.

"The team we had last year in Russia was very competitive," Sullivan said Monday. "We went over there and I don't think there were a lot of people that thought we would have any sort of competitive edge, but our team played extremely well."

The United States lost a quarterfinal shootout to Finland, which lost the final to Canada.

"He did a great job," Thrashers general manager Don Waddell, a member of USA Hockey's executive committee, said of Sullivan. "He's very organized, and for this tournament, you've got to come in with a game plan. You only have four or five days to get the players on the same page, so your game plan has to be something the players can grasp quickly. Sully did that last year."

That team also laid the groundwork for what is hoped to be a revitalized program. The squad assembles April  23 in Portland, Maine. The tournament begins May  2 in Halifax and Quebec.

"There's a volume of American-born players in the NHL right now who are having success and making contributions to their respective teams," Sullivan said. "This is the best league in the world, and that is indicative of how far the American players have come."

HOT STREAK: The Lightning is 54-for-60 on the penalty kill in its past 16 games. Tortorella said Sullivan devised the system that challenges opponents entering the Tampa Bay zone.

"One thing we're doing a much better job of is winning battles on entries," Tortorella said, "and when we force teams to dump the puck, coming up with pucks and going into attack areas before they get set up."

ODDS AND ENDS: Given his season, don't expect defenseman Dan Boyle to play for Canada in the world championship if asked. … With goalie Mike Smith back, Marc Denis returned to AHL Norfolk. … Center Ryan Craig (knee) skated 45 minutes in the morning wearing sweats. … No word on Paul Ranger's left shoulder injury, even after last week's additional tests. … Tampa Bay is 3-9-1 with two ties in home finales. ... Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen has four shutouts this season, 11 career. ... Forwards Karl Stewart and Andre Roy were scratched.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Tortorella to lean on Sullivan in assembling U.S. team 03/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 4:54pm]
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