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Hypnotism helping players visualize

He works in a small room at the Ice Palace off the hallway leading to the Lightning bench.

He has nothing to do with stick saves, slap shots and body checks _ directly. But Edward Klein contends that if he can get players thinking clearly, they will do those things better.

Klein is a Tampa psychiatrist who uses hypnotism to enhance athletic performance. He has worked with the Lightning since early November. He meets with players before games.

"We want to visualize what they want to do and visualize the best of what they have done in the past," Klein said. "The theory is, the actual performance will be enhanced if you visualize the best of what you have done."

It is hypnotism, but not the type you see at the local comedy club.

"You are always in control," Klein said. "You are not giving control to me or anybody else."

Instead, Klein said he is trying to help players control their performances by focusing their minds. Klein began working with the team after talking with general manager Rick Dudley.

"I did similar things to what they're doing at the end of my career," Dudley said. "I felt it helped me, so I was more receptive than I might have been."

Klein's most consistent subjects right now are goaltender Kevin Weekes and rookie center Brad Richards. Not a bad endorsement considering the way they have been playing.

"In games, I'm able to be as intense and hyped as I want to be, but I can temper it with a sense of calm that allows my body to move with a sense of flow," Weekes said.

Richards said he just likes the chance to get out of the noisy locker room before the game.

"It just helps you get focused," he said.

Klein, 60, who has a medical degree from Louisville, starts sessions by asking his subjects to breathe deeply with eyes closed. He has them visualize walking down a flight of steps. As they descend each step, he tells them, they will go deeper into "focused concentration."

He helps them relax their muscles, starting with the scalp and progressing down the body. Counting backward from 5, further deepens the focus. Klein said once the focus is deep enough, he can work with the subconscious and imprint the visualization.

"You visualize the good things you do," Richards said. "A burst of speed or a shot."

"See yourself in success," Klein tells them. "See yourself as No.

1 and being congratulated by your teammates."

Richards stressed he is always aware of his surroundings and never feels out of control.

When Klein brings his subjects out of the focused state, he tells them, "You will perform at a high level."

Before the session ends, Klein and his subjects develop a trigger, a word or action to help recall what has, in theory, been imprinted on their subconscious.

For former Lightning goaltender Dan Cloutier, the trigger was banging his stick against the posts. For Weekes, it is the word "ready."

"It's like, be ready at all times," Weekes said.

"I can't make them into something they're not," Klein said. "But we can give them the natural advantage of their natural abilities and talents.

"If you take the 100th player and improve the mental approach to the game with focus and positiveness 100 percent each time out, a player can rise to the top 10."

KHABIBULIN, DAY 2: Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin on Monday took his first live shots since December during a practice at the Ice Palace.

The shots did not come at a rapid-fire pace, partially because goaltenders coach Jeff Reese wanted Khabibulin to get a sense for seeing the puck coming off a stick again. But also because the players were tired after a round of fitness testing.

Most of the shots came from the blue line.

"Baby steps," Reese said. "His positioning was very good, very sound and very quick."

"We didn't score many out there," center Brian Holzinger said. "He's fundamentally sound. It doesn't look like he's lost too much of that."

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