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Berube and Lecavalier could hit 'reset' button

After 19 days and seven games stewing as a healthy scratch, Craig Berube finally seems willing to hit the reset button with veteran forward Vinny Lecavalier.

Berube would not totally commit to the lineup change for Thursday night's seemingly must-win game against Florida, but hinted at the possibility.

Lecavalier, 34, has not played since Nov. 29 against the Rangers.

If Berube does use the 405-goal scorer, he says he is committed to putting Lecavalier in the best possible position to succeed.

That means: playing his natural center position, skating more than 5 minutes per game, and being positioned with skilled players.

"I like the lines as they are, I don't know what I'll do," Berube said. "But I have to give him opportunities, whether it's power play or whatever. If I bring him in, I'm going to bring him in the middle of the ice. I definitely want to get him more than (5 minutes) for sure. I'm going to try to get him, obviously, more ice time than that."

After practice on Wednesday, Lecavalier was joined in the locker room by his young son, Gabriel, and young daughter, Victoria. The two Lecavalier children laughed with their dad, switching effortlessly between French and English in conversation, learning about equipment and grabbing a behind-the-scenes look at life as an NHL player.

For a moment or two, it seemed as if Lecavalier was savoring the experience, practicing spelling out his last name on his locker's nameplate in English, maybe wondering how many more opportunities he would have to do that.

Or, at the very least, his children were a diversion from what's been a trying month of just practice.

What changed between now and earlier in the week, when Berube didn't seem open to using Lecavalier again?

"His work ethic was really noticeable," Berube said. "I thought the beginning of the year, he was skating really well, too. I'm noticing that skating again. He does make plays. He can score. He looks hungry to me and he wants in there. That's a good sign."

Maybe, just maybe, Berube and his boss - Ron Hextall - realized there is no quick fix. Hextall gave Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, carte blanche to find a trade partner last summer. Presumably, that option didn't disappear, especially not after the last few weeks.

Lecavalier told the Daily News two weeks ago he has no interest in retiring, that he'd like to honor the three years and $10.5 million remaining on his deal after this season.

With a no-movement clause and a $4.5 million cap hit, getting Lecavalier playing again was really the only option to try and salvage his imprudent contract.

Berube made it a point to announce that he "does not have a bad relationship" with Lecavalier and that lines of communication are indeed open.

"He's a good player," Berube said. "The team and Vinny need to work together to find a place for him that work."


Craig Berube said he was not considering any changes to his defense for Thursday's game against Florida. That means Michael Del Zotto will be a healthy scratch for the 6th time in 8 games … Berube celebrated his 49th birthday on Wednesday … Berube said Steve Mason would "probably" start against the Panthers … Wednesday's practice was optional. Braydon Coburn did not participate, after an awkward spill into the boards, but Berube said Coburn was fine … The Panthers, who have split the season series with the Flyers so far, slid into a wild card spot on Tuesday by virtue of an epic, 20-round shootout win over the Capitals. It was the longest shootout in NHL history, surpassing a 15-round battle of wills between the Rangers and Capitals on Nov. 26, 2005.

On Twitter: @frank_seravalli