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Petrovicky trying for new start

The former Lightning forward, now with the Islanders, wasn't ready to give up on the NHL after last season.

It is not often one sees Robert Petrovicky unsure of his next move.

On the ice, he is a fury of forward motion, eager to get to the puck or the net. But for almost a month during the summer, the former Lightning forward did not know which way to turn.

Petrovicky, at home in his native Slovakia, was without a contract and had been passed over by Columbus and Minnesota in the expansion draft.

What to do? Play in Europe? Retire? No, he finally decided, not until he took one last shot at the NHL.

"I want to make one more shot at it," Petrovicky said. "If I didn't get an offer from the NHL, I would have come here and gone to the IHL. I don't want to give it up yet. It's still early. Nobody ever told me, "Robert, pack it up, you're not good enough.' "

Petrovicky said this from his hotel room in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the Islanders train. Petrovicky has a one-year deal with the team that pays him less if he is assigned to the minors.

The chance to play for New York also offers a mouth-watering benefit: an opening-night date against the Lightning on Oct. 6 at the Ice Palace.

"I'll be there against Tampa Bay on opening night," said Petrovicky, who spent the past two seasons with the team. "It's going to be tough because I'm going to try to do lots of things, and sometimes that's not easy."

Petrovicky, 26, said he has no hard feelings toward the organization and added, "I wish them well and good luck." But he still is irked about last season.

Petrovicky averaged just over 10 minutes in 43 games. He had seven goals and 10 assists and was plus-2. But he was a healthy scratch 24 times and said coach Steve Ludzik never told him what he needed to do to gain more ice time.

"I don't know how come he didn't like my style or didn't like my personality," Petrovicky said. "Whatever it was, I tried to be a big part of the team, and I never got a chance to establish that.

"I'm the type of player that if I get a chance with some skill guys, I can be pretty good offensively. I can play with the tough guys and run around. I can make things happen out there."

Lightning general manager Rick Dudley said, "Petro played pretty well when he played, and he got lots of opportunities. When we had injuries, he stepped in and played very well."

The problem, Dudley said, was that Petrovicky couldn't crack Tampa Bay's top two lines, which featured Vinny Lecavalier, Fredrik Modin, Todd Warriner, Michael Johnson and Brian Holzinger.

Dudley said the 5-foot-10, 183-pound Petrovicky also wasn't enough of a checker to warrant a regular third- or fourth-line assignment.

"So who would you rather have in the lineup on that five- or six-minute basis?" Dudley said. "You'd probably like to have Gordie Dwyer or a Kyle Freadrich or, last year, Reid Simpson (all tough guys). So that's what happened to him."

As for the silent treatment, Ludzik said it never happened.

"Anybody, you go ask anybody, they know exactly where they stand with me 24 hours a day," he said.

Despite all this, Petrovicky said he wanted to stay with the Lightning. And Dudley said he was willing to sign him to a two-way deal.

But Dudley said he was honest when Petrovicky's agent, Rich Winter, asked Dudley about his client's chances at securing a regular spot.

"Knowing what we have I said you might be better off trying another organization, and he did," Dudley said. "I wanted him to get a chance, and hopefully, he will."

Petrovicky said he is facing every practice "like my life depends on it."

"I'm a seven-year veteran, but still I have to show and prove," he said. "I don't want to give it up. Whatever it takes, I'm going to get there. I've just got to go out there and show them I can play in the NHL."