Yzerman challenges Lecavalier to be a star



Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has thrown down the gauntlet to star forward Vinny Lecavalier.

“We’re going to challenge him to be better,” Yzerman told the St. Petersburg Times.

Yzerman had earlier reassured Lecavalier in a meeting that he wasn’t on the trading block despite two years of trade rumours.

“After I left the meeting, I was very happy,” Lecavalier told the paper. “It’s been tough the past two years wondering what’s going to happen and if the rumours were true or not. Those things were distractions, and now it’s over. I’ve always said I wanted to be in Tampa, and they definitely reassured that to me.”

Lecavalier, 30, has watched his goal totals decline in the last three seasons after leading the NHL with 52 in 2006-07. He had only 24 last season, his lowest total since 2001-02.

“I’m not 40 years old. I’m in great shape,” Lecavalier added. “I’m working out hard. I believe I can bring a lot to the organization. . . . They want to do things the right way here. I want to be part of it.”

Caps, Fleischmann ‘not close’ on contract

The agent for Tomas Fleischmann said his client is far from making a deal with the Washington Capitals.

Rich Evans told the Washington Post that the sides are in discussion, but are “not close.’’

Evans said that Fleischmann, a 26-year-old Czech Republic native and a pending restricted free agent, received a qualifying offer on Monday which includes a mandatory five per cent raise from last season’s $725,000 US salary.

Evans said he would be looking for a multi-year agreement “assuming the numbers are right.”

Fleischmann missed the first 11 games last season due to a blood clot, but scored 14 goals in his first 25 games after returning. He slowed after that point, though, finishing with 23 goals and 28 assists in 69 games.

“In my mind, he was one of their top guys when (Alex Ovechkin was hurt),” Evans told the Post. “But coming in without a summer of training is going to impact you negatively at some point. He didn’t have a break at the Olympics, either.”

Blues stacked with young defencemen

The St. Louis Blues are awash in young defencemen.

Alex Johnson, 22, and Roman Polak, 24, are the most battle-hardened defencemen on the Blues.

Ian Cole, a 21-year-old Blues entry draft pick in 2007, and 20-year-old Alex Pietrangelo, who was drafted in ’08, could join them on blue-line this NHL season, as could Jonas Junland, 22.

Waiting in the wings are 19-year-olds David Rundblad and Brett Ponich, who were both drafted in last year.

“The only thing we’re missing back there now is experience,” Blues president John Davidson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’ve got good puck-moving defencemen that belong to us, good stay-at-home defencemen, and even good stay-at-home defencemen who can move the puck.

“We all want quicker development, but it doesn’t happen that way. These kids are going to come in and do their best to earn it.”

Penguins, Flyers to unveil new rink

The Penguins and Keystone State rival Philadelphia Flyers will christen Pittsburgh’s brand-new Consol Energy Center on Thursday, Oct. 7.

On that date, the Colorado Avalanche will also host the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Edmonton Oilers will battle the visiting Calgary Flames and the Toronto Maple Leafs will host the Montreal Canadiens.

The Ottawa Senators open their season against the visiting Buffalo Sabres the following night, while the Blackhawks will raise their Stanley Cup banner against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 9. The Vancouver Canucks also open their season that night against the visiting Los Angeles Kings.

The Flames open their home season Oct. 10 when the Kings are in town and the Canadiens will begin home play against Tampa Bay on Oct. 13.

The Boston Bruins and Phoenix Coyotes kick off their seasons at Prague’s O2 Arena on Oct. 9 and Oct. 10.

The entire schedule will be released on Tuesday.

He said it:

“I told him he’d better start working out. He’s probably forgotten how quick I am.” — New Jersey’s Patrik Elias to the Newark Star-Ledger on former linemate Jason Arnott, who is returning to the Devils.

“I think he forgot I was the brains of the line. I had to keep those two Czechs in line.” — A joking New Jersey Devils’ Jason Arnott, on returning to a line with former teammates Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora

Ice chips:

The Minnesota Wild on Monday acquired right-winger Brad Staubitz, a restricted free agent, from the San Jose Sharks. The Wild sent their fifth-round pick (129th overall) in the 2010 NHL entry draft. . . . According to the Dallas Morning News, Ken Hitchcock remains hopeful of landing another coaching job after being fired by the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. . . . USA Today says the Chicago Blackhawks appear willing to trade Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Brent Sopel to free up some salary-cap space. . . . For the first time since the 1958-59 season, the Boston Bruins will play in Europe. The Bruins will meet the host Belfast Giants Select in an exhibition game before opening the new season with two games against the Phoenix Coyotes at Prague’s O2 Arena on Oct. 9 and 10. . . . The Phoenix Coyotes re-signed left-winger Taylor Pyatt to a two-year contract. Pyatt, 28, scored 12 goals and 11 assists last season while accumulating 39 penalty minutes and a career-high plus-13 rating in 74 games in his first year with the Coyotes.

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