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Lee, Commodore excited to make Lightning debuts

by Lonnie Herman / Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. -- "Defensemen aren't easy to find," Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said Monday, so he was pleased when he was able to obtain three of them at the trade deadline.

Keith Aulie, obtained from the Toronto Maple Leafs, is still awaiting a visa, but the other two newcomers, Brian Lee from the Ottawa Senators and veteran Mike Commodore from the Detroit Red Wings, will be playing Tuesday night and were just as happy to be joining the Lightning as Yzerman was to get them.

"I'm excited to be here. I think it's great," Lee said. "It's a fresh start for me and I'm coming to a great organization with what seems like a great group of guys."

Lee, a first-round draft selection in 2005, has appeared in 35 games this season with 1 goal and 7 assists. He said he was surprised by the trade and arrived in Tampa early Tuesday morning.

"I'm just trying to find out about the guys that I'm playing with; get to know them a little bit," Lee said after the morning skate in preparation for Tuesday night's meeting with the Montreal Canadiens. "We've got some guys down with sickness and injury so we'll have to play a simple game and grind them down."

One adjustment Lee made quickly concerns the change in climate.

"This is the dead of winter? It's terrible," Lee said, joking about the 80-degree Florida weather. "I don't know how you guys can handle it. It was snowing when I left Ottawa. There were three or four inches of snow on the ground. This is a nice change of pace."

Twelve-year veteran Mike Commodore, joining his seventh NHL team, expressed gratitude for the opportunity.

"Things didn't work out in Detroit, I wasn't getting an opportunity at all, so I'm appreciative that they cut me loose and gave me a chance to play," Commodore said. "I'm not 22 years old anymore, I'm 32. I'd like to play a few more years if I can, and in order to do that I have to play some games."

He'll get that opportunity with the Lightning, who are short players on the blue line. Victor Hedman missed two months with a concussion and returned to the lineup, but was re-injured and is undergoing evaluation for another concussion, while Mattias Ohlund won't play at all this season after knee surgery. Marc-Andre Bergeron remains sidelined with an upper-body injury.

"The whole idea behind Commodore, first of all we need a defenseman and we don't know if Bergeron and Hedman are coming back this year. We'll see," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "Obviously Ohlund
Brian Lee
Defense - TBL
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 8
SOG: 15 | +/-: -2
hasn't played a game and won't play a game this year. So Commodore was a guy with a lot of experience, a big body, and we need more size."

For his part, Commodore appears ready to do whatever is asked of him.

"I expect to bring some experience and a little bit of size on the back line," he said. "I'm going to try to be physical. I'm not going to try to do anything different than I always have; get the puck out. If they want me to kill some penalties, I'll kill some penalties. I just want to be a solid player."

Unlike Lee, who is 24 and Aulie, 22, Commodore's future with the Lightning is far from assured. That's something the veteran is well aware of.

"I'm looking forward to coming in here and contributing and doing the best I can to help this team win," Commodore said. "It's 20 big games for me and I'd like to get better with each one. Tonight's going to be a grind, there's no doubt about it, but I just want to try to get through tonight as best as possible and try to get better every game."
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