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FITTING INTO THE BAY AREA

The Lightning signed wing Michel Ouellet this month, hoping the 25-year-old forward can add some much-needed scoring punch on the line of his former junior hockey teammate, Brad Richards. In his second NHL season, the French Canadian-born Ouellet scored 19 goals and tallied 48 points with the Penguins (both improvements from his rookie season) and ranked fourth on the Pens with 11 power-play goals. Ouellet (pronounced wuh-LEHT) signed a two-year, $2.5-million deal with the Lightning as an unrestricted free agent on July 1. After participating in a Lightning youth hockey camp last week at the Ice Sports Forum, Ouellet took time to talk with Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina about, among other things, Harry Potter, setting up his first phone line, his mom's home cooking and the linguistic power of Jack Bauer.

Growing up in Quebec, was there any hockey player you followed as a kid?

Patrick Roy. Everybody asks me why because he's a goalie, but when I was playing street hockey, I was always playing goalie and I was pretending I was him. ... He was my idol.

Were you as good a goalie on ice?

Not really. It's tougher playing with skates in the net than shoes.

So what's on your iPod?

I like to listen to music on the radio, what's the new hit and everything, but I don't have an iPod I bring with me everywhere to listen to music or anything. I like to read more on the plane. I'll listen to whatever the other guys are listening to.

So what have you read recently?

I read a lot on investment and real estate. ... I've read Harry Potter, the first six books.

You're not one of those types at the bookstore at midnight, are you?

No (Laughter).

I read somewhere that you own a real estate business on the side. How's that going?

Right now, it's just small. It's a house with bedrooms that I rent out to students. It's the thing I've got right now, but I want it to get bigger. With time I hope it will get bigger.

So if you weren't a hockey player what would you be?

My brother is studying to be an accountant. If I had to go back to school, that's the way I'd probably go.

You played junior hockey in your hometown of Rimouski. One of the best things about that has to be the home cooking. What was your favorite meal at the kitchen table?

Growing up it was more about the seafood that my mother cooked. Being home was always something special. It's not every guy who's playing in my hometown. Having home cooking and having your own bed, it was great for me.

So what was it like leaving Rimouski when you turned pro?

I think it was tougher to leave home than the other guys who were coming from juniors. My first year (with the Penguins' ECHL team) in Wheeling (West Virginia) was not easy.

West Virginia had to be a culture shock. But why else?

I think the language. In my hometown there weren't a lot of people speaking English. When I turned pro and went to Wheeling it was tough just trying to get a phone line. They had like 10 questions they had to ask me and I was always asking them to repeat and at the end I was waiting to get my bill to see what I had ordered.

So what's your favorite show?

Right now I'm watching 24 and that's helping me out a lot (learning English) because it's about everything. When I was younger I couldn't exactly watch what it was. I was just putting on the TV and listening to what it was. I was watching a lot of football too.

Has your former Rimouski Oceanic teammate Brad Richards told you about how much ice time the top-line forwards get here (Ouellet averaged 13:19 in ice time last season)?

At first he told me about the training camp, that the first two days are pretty hard and you have to be in good shape. And after that, that's what he said, that you get a lot of ice time but that you also get a lot of rest.

Is the offseason training plan you received from the Lightning different than ones you've had in the past?

I think it's more about endurance. That's what they want me to work on. I was working more on power to get stronger and to get better my first two or three steps on the ice, but no, that endurance is going to help me a lot because if I'm going to be on the ice 19, 20 minutes, I'm going to need some.

You played with Brad in juniors, but do you think it will be easy to get that feel for each other back?

Brad sees the ice so well, so for me the only thing I have to concentrate on, like it was in juniors, is to drive the net so I can receive those passes when he's down low. ... I don't think it will be that hard to play with him. How good he is, he makes you better.

It's that simple?

That's what's made me successful in the past years. So that's what I need to do to have success here.

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