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VINNY CAN'T GET BACK TO SCHOOL

The Lightning turned down an invitation to practice today at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, the former prep school of captain Vinny Lecavalier.

Terry O'Malley, Lecavalier's old coach, made the offer. But with a morning skate and an afternoon practice for the group not playing tonight against the Senators, GM Brian Lawton said the logistics were impossible.

"It would have been neat if the schedule hadn't been what it is," he said. "But the way it's set up, it just wasn't a consideration."

"It's too bad," Lecavalier said. "I haven't been back since '96. It would have been nice to go and skate around that rink."

Lecavalier, who attended the school from 1994-96, said the ice is Olympic size - "Not a lot of seats, but it's great" - and his description of the town of Wilcox, population 222, about 25 miles south of Regina, was priceless.

"You have to take a 4-mile dirt road with wheat fields all around it," Lecavalier said. "That's all there is. It's just a great little town."

Of O'Malley, Lecavalier said, "He's a great coach and was a great influence on my career."

O'Malley, now retired, said he plans to attend today's practice and visit his former player: "If he can't come to the school, we'll bring the school to him."

VEILLEUX'S TURN: With Stephane Veilleux on right wing, Lecavalier's line was energized Friday against the Thrashers. Veilleux is expected to play on the line again Tuesday against the Coyotes.

"What I like about Stephane on that line is he knows what to do," coach Rick Tocchet said. "He crashes the net. I think (LW Alex) Tanguay and Vinny are a great pair. But if we can get a winger to be that energy guy who goes to the net, that's what we're looking for, a guy who can clear space."

MOVABLE PARTS: Veilleux on Lecavalier's line takes an important piece from the third line, where the team preferred the gritty wing to play. Tocchet has been disappointed with the play of the third and fourth lines.

"I'm not saying guys are playing bad, but we haven't noticed that urgency where this is your shot," he said.

Third-line center Jeff Halpern "is a veteran guy, and we know what we're going to get from him," Tocchet said. "He's a solid player. But from there, we're looking for guys to take hold. We're looking for guys who want the job."

DROP THE GLOVES: As to the fight three seconds into Friday's game, F Zenon Konopka said Thrashers F Josh Gratton asked him to go, an interesting move considering the league is supposed to be cracking down on staged bouts.

"I'm not here in camp to back down," Konopka said. "I'm going to do everything in my power to be here. You've got to respect the rules, but there's not going to be any thinking on my part later, maybe if I get sent down, that I should have done this, I should have done that."

Konopka's nose is swollen from taking a punch. He needed six stitches in his right ring finger, which was cut by Gratton's skate blade after Konopka went down. Konopka needed nine stitches above his left eye when, on his first shift after the fight, he was checked hard into the boards.

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