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OATES UP FOR MORE COACHING

Adam Oates, serving as an unpaid power-play coach as a favor to his friend, coach Rick Tocchet, said he'd be interested in extending his stint beyond camp if the feeling is mutual.

Oates, 47, one of the game's greatest passers, said he hasn't spoken to the Lightning about the possibility. But considering his relationship with Tocchet, a former teammate, it could be a good match.

"We'll see what happens," Oates said. "Right now, they're going into a year where they can't really worry about something like that. ... We'll see how it goes through camp. I think what I bring to the table for him is something that I think the guys will like, just another set of eyes."

Oates, who ranks sixth all time in assists (1,079), said he has had other opportunities to coach since he retired in 2004 but they weren't the right fit.

C Steven Stamkos said, "The longer (Oates) stays, the better.

"He was obviously one of the greatest players in his time, and I think he's really going to help," Stamkos said. "(The power play) was his bread and butter when he played, and that's something that was kind of up and down for us last year."

READY TO GO: G Antero Niittymakimakes his Lightning debut tonight against the Stars. He was expected to play the first two periods.

Niittymaki, who signed a one-year deal as a free agent to back up G Mike Smith, said he feels good physically and his body is responding well after three hip surgeries in the past 41 months.

"I haven't felt this good in probably a couple years," Niittymaki, 29, said. "Everything is great. I start feeling better and better every day out there."

Jaroslav Janus, who is playing for a contract, is expected to play the third period.

STEPPING IN: D Victor Hedman, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, is excited for his first NHL game tonight.

"It's going to be great," Hedman said. "It's a big opportunity to show what I've learned so far."

Hedman, 18, has had a pretty big workload in camp, including playing in two scrimmages Monday. But Hedman said his body is holding up well, and Tocchet said the 6-foot-6 Swede is holding his own: "He's been one of our better players in camp."

MEDICAL MATTERS: Ds Andrej Meszaros and Paul Ranger, each coming off offseason shoulder surgery, returned to practice Tuesday, but Tocchet said they probably won't play in a game until the team starts its six-game trip Monday against Ottawa. "Obviously I'd love to play, but I don't want to force anything," Meszaros said.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning cut LWs Alex Hutchings and Matias Sointu, RW Kyle DeCoste, D Mark Barberio and G Michael Zador, reducing the camp roster to 47.

Around the league

Blues: The team exercised its option to keep coach Andy Murray through the 2010-11 season. Murray led the Blues to a 41-31-10 record last season and their first playoff appearance since 2004.

Canadiens: Coach Jacques Martin denied a Montreal Gazette report that D Andrei Markov was offered the captaincy and turned it down. Martin said he and GM Bob Gainey will select the captain at the end of training camp. Saku Koivu, the captain since 1999, signed with the Ducks in the offseason.

Capitals: CBrooks Laich said he wasn't too bothered by a fake Twitter account set up in his name until he was told that one of the messages sent out on the social networking Web site was: "Yes I fired (players association executive director) Paul Kelly, and yes I'm voting for a lockout." Said Laich, the team's union representative, "I hope those people who are following it know it's not me."

Maple Leafs: GJonas Gustavsson, trying to earn the backup job behind Vesa Toskela, had a medical procedure to take care of what coach Ron Wilson called a minor heart problem. Gustavsson, 24, experienced a racing heartbeat after fitness tests Saturday. He took part in on-ice sessions Monday but was not at the team's practice facility Tuesday. Wilson said doctors performed a catheter ablation, in which wires are inserted into a vein in the groin and threaded up through the vein and into the heart.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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