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HEDMAN SHOWS SKILL VS. VINNY

D Victor Hedman on Sunday gave a quick glimpse of the skills that made him the No. 2 overall pick of the summer's draft.

On consecutive plays during one-on-one drills, Hedman's savvy stick work broke up rushes by C Vinny Lecavalier and RWCarter Ashton. The poke check of Lecavalier was especially sweet; Hedman knocked the puck from the captain's stick just as he began to pick up speed.

"He just smiled at me," Hedman said of Lecavalier, "and I heard something about me having a long stick."

Not only long - he is 6 feet 6, after all - but aggressive.

"His stick is one of his assets," coach Rick Tocchet said. "So when you get a high-caliber player like Vinny coming down on you and he's adept enough to use his stick, that's like veteran stuff. He actually hides his stick, almost like a snake. The forward thinks, 'I'm good,' and all of a sudden, the stick comes flying. And he's got that reach."

And some new confidence.

"Oh, yeah," Hedman said, adding of his first NHL camp, "It's like a dream."

FOCUS ON DEFENSE: With a sharp, accurate wrist shot that consistently went top shelf and drew oohs from spectators, Mattias Ohlund won a breakaway contest.

Nice, but more important, things are on the mind of the former Canucks defenseman.

"I like the way this team looks," he said. "From playing against Tampa the past few years, they can score goals. One of the issues is that ... defensively they haven't played strong enough. So by adding not just me but Victor Hedman and other pieces, too, we can help steady the back end."

LINING UP: It seems Tocchet is serious about giving Steve Downie a chance to earn a spot on a line with Lecavalier and LW Alex Tanguay.

The trio played together Sunday and is expected to see time during today's scrimmages and in preseason games.

Not that anything is in stone. Tocchet said he also will try Stephane Veilleux, Martins Karsums and perhaps even rookie Dana Tyrell on right wing to find the best fit.

FALLING BACK: D Mike Lundin doesn't have any illusions about where he stands after the team's summer retooling of the blue line.

"You know you are pretty low on the overall depth chart, so all you can do is go out there and work as hard as you can and hope things work out," he said.

As they did in 2007-08, when the unknown rookie earned a job out of camp and played 81 NHL games.

"It feels similar to my first year here, although the odds are pretty tougher this year," he said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Give credit to LW Alex Hutchings, drafted 93rd overall in June, for getting on Tocchet's radar. "I'm really impressed with him, his hands," the coach said. "I think he's going to be a good hockey player. ...Scrimmages today at the Ice Sports Forum are at 10 and 11:15 a.m. ... With Disney On Ice out of the St. Pete Times Forum, camp will move to Tampa on Tuesday.

* * *

Around the league

BLACKHAWKS: GMStan Bowman said that Marian Hossa, who signed a 12-year, $62.8 million deal July 1 and had rotator cuff surgery July 24, is on schedule in his rehabilitation and doctors are "very happy with his progress." Hossa could return in late November.

COYOTES: Coach Wayne Gretzky was absent from training camp for the second straight day because of his uncertain contract status brought on by the team's bankruptcy case. Associate coach Ulf Samuelsson put players through drills as they took the ice together at Jobing.com Arena for the first time this season. GMDon Maloney said Gretzky is still the coach but he wasn't sure when Gretzky would rejoin the team.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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