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Vokoun sharp as 'Cats conclude preseason

by Brian Hunter

A few thoughts while the players involved in Monday’s trade between the Lightning and Canucks fill out their change-of-address forms:

Tuning upRick DiPietro still has to get his timing back. Tomas Vokoun looks more than ready for the NHL season to begin.

Monday night’s final preseason game for the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers was a study in contrasts when it came to the goaltending. Vokoun stopped all 29 shots he saw while DiPietro struggled at times in his first action since hip surgery six months ago. The Panthers won 6-0 at BankAtlantic Center behind defenseman Jay Bouwmeester’s goal and two assists.

DiPietro finished with 28 saves and wasn’t faring badly until the Panthers tacked on three goals in the final six minutes of the third period. The final two came on the power play, where Florida connected three times on the night.

"Ricky played well tonight, despite the final score," Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. "The goals really weren't his fault. If there's one thing I never worry about, it's Ricky."

Vokoun, meanwhile, stymied Richard Park on a breakaway early in the second and later denied Freddy Meyer’s tip in front with a nifty leg save.

“He gives you a good feeling of security,” new Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said.

More important to the Islanders than the meaningless final score was the health of defenseman Chris Lee. Only days after scoring the overtime winner against the Devils on his 28th birthday, Lee was taken off on a stretcher after being checked into the boards from behind by Rostislav Olesz at 11:02 of the third. Olesz received a major and game misconduct. An Islanders spokesman said Lee had movement, was conscious and was taken to an area hospital.

Westward bound – Shane O’Brien played the first 62 games of his NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks, so he has a decent idea of the type of play it will take for him to succeed now that he’s back in the Western Conference as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

“It’s a real tighter-checking, more North American style game, I feel,” the 25-year-old defenseman said in a conference call with reporters Monday following the trade that sent him and Michel Ouellet to the Canucks in return for Lukas Krajicek and Juraj Simek. “You have to be willing to compete and win battles. I’m going to have to come in to practice and not waste any time.”

O’Brien didn’t have any time free to waste Monday. Within hours of the Lightning arriving home from the Czech Republic, where they had just completed the Bridgestone NHL Premiere Prague series with the New York Rangers, O’Brien learned of his impending trade. Later in the day he was answering questions from the media about how he would fit in with his new team, and half an hour after that he was scheduled to board a plane to Vancouver that figured to get him in around midnight Pacific time.

Although his jersey will change, O’Brien said he will be keeping the number 55 that he wore with the Lightning. He said he didn’t know any of his future teammates personally, but one reporter reminded him that when the Lightning played the Canucks last season he had a bit of a brush-up with Mattias Ohlund. O’Brien, never one to back down on the ice, chuckled at the memory.

“We had a little altercation,” he said. “I can’t wait to see him in practice and try to pick up some of the things he does, try to get better.”

Positive momentum – Following up on last season’s eighth-place finish and near upset of Montreal in the first round of the playoffs, the Boston Bruins concluded the preseason on a positive note Sunday by edging the Washington Capitals in a shootout. Coach Claude Julien saw it as added preparation for the regular season, which for the Bruins begins Thursday in Colorado.

“To me (having a shootout) was good,” Julien said. “I was hoping that we would win in regulation – that would have felt good as well – but that was something that went through my mind, that this was our eighth game and we hadn’t had a shootout, yet.

“You want to see your shooters get that chance to get into it, so tonight was a good night for it, and it kind of fell into place (nicely), because it ended up giving us the win.”

Phil Kessel and Patrice Bergeron came through for the Bruins in the tiebreaker, while Manny Fernandez allowed one to Alexander Ovechkin but also stopped Michael Nylander and Alexander Semin to preserve the win.

“I know that it doesn’t really matter at this point, but still, we want to start on a good note,” he said. “I mean, it wasn’t pretty but we (would’ve gotten) two points and showed that we could battle through adversity.”

Distribution of youth – Not only do the Phoenix Coyotes have a wealth of young talent on their roster, they also have a coach in Wayne Gretzky who understands quite well the expectations and challenges those players will face.

So while fans in the desert can continue looking forward to seeing the dynamic tandem of 19-year-old rookie center Kyle Turris and 18-year-old rookie winger Mikkel Boedker, just don’t look for the two on the ice together. Gretzky made the decision Monday to give Turris captain Shane Doan and Daniel Carcillo as his linemates, while Boedker will skate on a line with Olli Jokinen and Peter Mueller.

“We really felt that putting Kyle (Turris) and Mikkel (Boedker) together puts an enormous amount of pressure on two (teenagers),” Gretzky said. “It’s hard enough to break into this league as an 18-year-old and although they have both played well, we thought it was a little too much.

“So now instead of having one line, we will have two young lines. I think right now, on a regular basis, maybe it takes a lot of pressure off those two young kids. They can look to their side and see a veteran player who has a little more experience. Hopefully, it will make the transition easier for them.”

Another rookie, Viktor Tikhonov, will skate on the third line with a pair of players beginning their second seasons in the League, center Martin Hanzal and winger Daniel Winnik.

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.

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