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Alexeev impresses

Lightning general manager Rick Dudley and coach Steve Ludzik must have smiled after the present and future collided Monday.

Center Vinny Lecavalier, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 1998, and rookie forward Nikita Alexeev, its No. 1 pick in June, bumped into each other, exchanged a few shoves and moved on during a morning scrimmage.

"It was a physical game," Alexeev, 18, said. "He hit me, and I hit him back."

Though he has yet to play a professional game, that kind of fearlessness has earned Alexeev (6 feet 5, 215 pounds) respect.

"In many ways he's shown more (than expected)," Dudley said. "He's a much more mature player in terms of his thinking out there than we had thought at this point in his career. There are some very obvious things beside speed. He thinks very well defensively, and he can score offensively."

Alexeev scored one goal and assisted on two during scrimmages Monday. In 64 games for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League last season, Alexeev scored 24 goals and had 29 assists.

"I think I do (have a chance to make the team) as long as I play consistent," the Russian said. "It depends on the coaches and how they think about me."

WHAT TRADE?: If a teammate hadn't brought it up, defenseman Cory Sarich might still be unaware that he and Todd Warriner were the focus of a trade rumor last weekend.

"That shows how much I pay attention," Sarich said.

Sunday, Dudley quickly discounted a rumored trade of Sarich and Warriner for aging Capitals left wing Peter Bondra.

Sarich and Warriner seemed amused by the talk.

"It's almost funny," Warriner said. "It's part of the game. We just laughed about it. I feel like I'm just getting started here. I wouldn't be too excited to move."

Sarich and Warriner were acquired in trades last season.

"Thank goodness I don't own any furniture," said Sarich, who split time among Buffalo, Rochester and Tampa Bay last year. "I'm renting a furnished place for now. It's easiest until I'm sure I'm going to be somewhere for a while."

CUTS COMING: Dudley and Ludzik are expected to cut the roster to 38 or 39 by Wednesday and whittle that number to 30 or so by Saturday.

"There are going to be guys who are going to be out of jobs with the Tampa Bay Lightning," Ludzik said. "There are going to be guys that played here last year that are pressed for jobs."

WELL-HEELED: Pavel Kubina not only came to camp with a new contract, the defenseman arrived with a new set of skates.

Kubina, hampered by a bruised right heel late last season, has swapped Bauer skates for a more flexible pair made by Koho.

The heel hasn't bothered him since.

MONDAY STANDOUTS: Right wing Dmitry Afanasenkov continued to impress coaches by scoring two goals and adding two assists during scrimmages. Center Martin St. Louis duplicated Afanasenkov's performance. St. Louis, one of the smallest players in camp at 5-9, 185 pounds, also had two goals and had two assists. Goaltender Dan Cloutier stopped 10 of 10 shots in his only scrimmage.

INJURIES: Defenseman Sergey Gusev, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, was expected to practice Monday. Forward Kyle Freadrich (strained right shoulder) sat out practice and was expected back today. Defenseman Kyle Kos sprained his medial collateral ligament and was listed as day to day. Wings Dan Kesa (strained left hamstring) and Stan Drulia (charley horse) did not skate but should practice today. Head medical trainer Dave Boyer expects all injured players to be ready by the Oct. 6 regular-season opener.

_ KEVIN KELLY, DAMIAN CRISTODERO

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