Juli Veee is in the midst of transferring his artistic talent from the canvas back to the field.
"When you're out six weeks, it's hard," Veee said. "I put my soul into painting. If I didn't have that, emotionally I'd have been destroyed."
He sold a painting during his absence from the Sockers. And on Wednesday night, there were Veee's precise pass off a corner kick that resulted in a goal by Gus Mokalis; his right-footer on the run into the net, and another assist on a third-quarter goal by Zoran Karic in the Sockers' 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Lazers at the Forum.
"Did you see those diamond passes?" Veee asked. "They were like fine jewelry."
For those of you with short memories, Veee has been a star and an institution with the Sockers for years. But this has been a very tough season for "Double Deuce, Triple E."
Veee was suspended 30 days for slapping assistant coach Johan Aarnio after the Minnesota game Nov. 22 and for two days for a "closed personnel incident" that occurred on the Sockers' opening-game trip to Wichita. He lost approximately $8,000 because of the suspensions.
When he returned Dec. 25, Veee practiced with the team, but Coach Ron Newman did not insert Veee in the lineup because he did not want to break up a winning combination. Then Keder suffered a sprained ankle and knee, and Veee played sparingly against Baltimore Jan. 12. With Hugo Perez sidelined with a stress fracture on his left shin, Veee played regular shifts against Tacoma Friday night (and scored) and then against the Lazers Wednesday.
"He also played well in the last game," Newman said. "He looks a little quicker than I remember him. I'm real pleased with him. He's done his penance. Now he's back in there. Now he's part of the team."
And what a team the Sockers have. At 19-6, they are in first place and have won seven in a row and 12 of their past 13. They have the best road record in the league at 10-5.
Playing in front of an announced crowd of 4,823 fans, San Diego led, 2-1, after a quarter, 4-2 at halftime and 6-2 after three quarters against the Lazers, who have lost five consecutive games at the Forum.
"On the road, we think win and play as a team," said Lazer Coach Keith Tozer, who club is 3-8 at home. "However, at home we play as individuals, and you need to play as a team to win."
In addition to Veee, the Sockers had two goals from Waad Hirmez, a goal and two assists from Paul Dougherty, a goal from Karic and goals from defenders Kevin Crow, Brian Schmetzer and Mokalis.
It was the second goal of the season for Crow, the fourth for Schmetzer and the third for Mokalis.
"If defenders pick and choose the right times, they will get their goals," Crow said. "If it happens, it happens, but our job is still to be in the back."
The defense got help from goalkeeper Jim Gorsek, who made 14 saves on 29 shots in raising his record to 10-3.