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WHAT IF?

When goaltender Roberto Luongo was traded from the Panthers to the Canucks in June 2006, there were rumors Vancouver just might send him to the Lightning in what would have been a blockbuster deal for Vinny Lecavalier.

Lecavalier heard the rumors, too.

"I remember hearing things, but I really didn't know,'' he said. "It actually was the first year I watched the draft because I thought that's where it would be happening.''

That it didn't work out turned out pretty well for both teams. Lecavalier turned into one of the game's best players, and Luongo, as perhaps the game's best goalie, almost single-handedly dragged the Canucks into last season's playoffs.

"I'm definitely happy I stayed here,'' Lecavalier said. "I love it in Tampa and don't want to go anywhere else.''

As for that blip during the 2001-02 season in which he asked for a trade and was almost dealt to the Maple Leafs, he said, "I guess at some point in my career, when I was younger, I thought the grass was greener on the other side. It isn't.''

As for Luongo, he said he never heard the him-for-Vinny rumors.

"I wasn't even aware of that,'' he said last week before Vancouver's game at the St. Pete Times Forum. "It's a surprise to me.''

The game's the thing

Lightning coach John Tortorella, above, never has been shy about bemoaning what he sees as a lack of physical play throughout the league.

So after watching his team and the Canucks on Thursday have four fights, combine for 72 penalty minutes and bash each other into the boards and across the ice pretty much for 60 minutes, he could not stay quiet.

"That's what this league needs to get back to,'' he said, "those type of games right there.''

It was certainly a crowd-pleaser as fans at the St. Pete Times Forum were on their feet cheering more than sitting on their hands.

"I don't want to get going here, but it frustrates me in where we've taken this game the other way when I watch that game,'' Tortorella said. "What frustrates me with this league is how we've turned it into a ballet versus that.

"That's hockey. That's North American hockey. I respect the way Vancouver played. I respect the way our team played. I thought it was a good one to watch.''

Figuring it out

The Blues ordered Doug Weight figurines and planned to give them away Saturday. Trouble is, St. Louis traded Weight to the Ducks in December. Instead of wasting the figurines, the Post-Dispatch reported, the team switched the promotion to Friday's game against Anaheim.

Ref hating

It's not only Lightning fans who believe they are getting jobbed by the refs. The Maple Leafs believe they have some pretty good beefs after Thursday's overtime loss to the Hurricanes.

Two video reviews went against Toronto, and Nik Antropov'shooking penalty led to the winner, prompting Antropov to throw his stick at referee Mike Leggo.

"We've been out here and friendly long enough,'' Leafs coach Paul Maurice said after the game. "(Carolina's second goal) was a high-stick goal. (Jason) Blake's puck was in the net, and it was a lousy call on Antropov. If you want to get the story, go to the people who make the judgments. It's not mine. We disagree. That's all I have to say.''

Odds and ends

Boston's Marco Sturm played his 731st game Saturday, most by a German. ... Blue Jackets wing Rick Nash joined Owen Nolan (1997) and Pierre Turgeon (1993) as the only players among 15 with All-Star hat tricks not named MVP. ... With Saturday's loss, Ottawa is 1-9 over the past two seasons in games without starDaniel Alfredsson.

He said it

"When you first come in here and walk down that hall (in Joe Louis Arena), a lot of the players' names are already enshrined there. They're part of the fabric. They're more important than me. So the question walking in is, 'What are you going to do to help us win?'"

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock in the Detroit News

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