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Savard honored for playing 1,000

When Denis Savard played his first NHL game with Chicago in 1980, Tony Esposito was the Blackhawks' goalie and Danny Gare played for the opposing Buffalo Sabres.

Before the Lightning's game with Hartford on Saturday night, both Esposito, now Tampa Bay's director of hockey operations, and Gare, an assistant coach with the Lightning, were at the ThunderDome as Savard was recognized for having played in his 1,000th league game last Sunday at Edmonton.

Lightning president Phil Esposito took the opportunity to present Savard with a silver stick and gold puck, and to get in a jab aimed at Tony.

"I thought you were older than that, brother," Phil said when mention was made of Tony's and Savard's careers having overlapped.

Savard thanked the three organizations he has played for _ Chicago, Montreal and Tampa Bay _ along with former teammates Steve Larmer and Al Secord.

Savard, in his 14th NHL season, was signed by the Lightning last year as a free agent.

Shuttling back

Defenseman Chris LiPuma took a familiar flight after the Lightning's last game, returning again to the club's minor-league affiliate in Atlanta.

The rookie's latest stint was a one-game emergency call-up to fill in for the injured Roman Hamrlik. But with the return Saturday of Donald Dufresne from a knee injury, LiPuma was no longer needed.

LiPuma started the season in Atlanta, made his season debut with the Lightning at Quebec on Nov. 2 and has been called up three other times since. He has played in 27 of the team's 67 games.

Scratches

Neither Hamrlik (bruised shoulder) nor 23-goal scorer Petr Klima (separated shoulder) played Saturday. Pat Elynuik was the Lightning's only non-injury scratch.

With Klima out, Adam Creighton moved up to take his place as left wing on a line with center Chris Gratton and right wing Danton Cole.

Center Brian Bradley and defenseman Joe Reekie, both of whom missed the second half of the 5-4 loss to New Jersey on Thursday with the flu, returned to the lineup.

Back from flu

Center Brian Bradley and defenseman Joe Reekie, both of whom missed the second half of Tampa Bay's 5-4 loss to New Jersey on Thursday because of a bout with the flu, returned to the lineup.

By the numbers

Rob DiMaio, whose second-period goal put the Lightning up 1-0, has scored goals in five of the past six games. Both the Lightning and Whalers have losing records when the score is tied after one period: Tampa Bay was 7-11-3 before Saturday and Hartford was 5-11-5. The first-period score Saturday: 0-0.

_ TIM BUCKLEY

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