Right wing Sheldon Keefe is in upstate New York, but not exactly where the Lightning intended. The 20-year-old rookie was suspended indefinitely without pay Thursday after he failed to report for a minor-league assignment with the American Hockey League's Rochester franchise.
Keefe was loaned to the Buffalo Sabres affiliate, but failed to report for his flight. He is working out on his own in New York, said agent Mike Gillis, who added some advance consultation from Lightning management might have avoided the dispute.
Gillis said Keefe was uncomfortable with taking a roster spot in Rochester and upset he was not given more opportunity in Tampa Bay. Gillis said "several other factors" were involved, however.
"(The Lightning) is out of the playoffs, and has been for quite some time," he said. "Sheldon waited patiently for an opportunity, performed well in Detroit, and the expectation was he would be given an opportunity to see if he could perform at this level."
Keefe, selected in the second round of the 1999 entry draft, had four goals in 49 games with the Lightning, averaging eight minutes.
Tampa Bay general manager Rick Dudley said through a team spokesman that he had no comment on the matter.
_ BRANT JAMES