Defensemen in fight for final roster spot

Published September 26, 2005

TAMPA - The fight for the sixth and final defensive spot has, for now, come down to two players.

Andy Rogers and Timo Helbling survived Sunday's second round of cuts. Barring the acquisition of another player by trade or through waivers, one will start the season with the Lightning.

"We're still looking," general manager Jay Feaster said after Tampa Bay's 3-2 loss to the Sabres. "We check the waivers every day. We're still looking to talk to teams to see if they have strength at that position, so nothing is guaranteed. These two guys have earned the opportunity."

Tampa Bay sent nine players to AHL Springfield: goaltender Brian Eklund , forwards Ryan Craig , Andre Deveaux , Nick Tarnasky , Mitch Fritz , Jason Jaspers and Marek Kvapil and defensemen Doug O'Brien and Todd Rohloff .

That leaves 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies in camp. Feaster said the team will keep 20. And since right wing Evgeny Artyukhin will be sent to Springfield after more intensive instruction, the blue line is the battle ground.

"I'm excited," Rogers said. "Right now I just have to get off cloud nine and calm down a little bit."

Rogers, 19, has played the past two seasons in the junior Western Hockey League. Helbling, 24, played 2003-04 in the ECHL and last season in Switzerland's premier league.

Complicating matters for Rogers is he is unsigned.

The Lightning, tight under the $39-million cap, could conceivably offer up to about $600,000 in base salary and a signing bonus. As a low first-round pick (30th) in 2004, Rogers could ask for about $900,000.

If he is not signed, Rogers will go back to his junior team in Prince George.

LIGHTNING LOSES: It took 11 rounds, but the Sabres beat the Lightning 3-2 in a shootout after the teams played a 2-2 tie through overtime in front of 14,376. It was the first Tampa Bay game decided by shootout. Ruslan Fedotenko and Chris Dingman scored for Tampa Bay (2-3), which rested most of its top players. But after Jochen Hecht gave Buffalo the lead with a backhander past goalie John Grahame , Artyukhin was stopped by Martin Biron .

ODDS AND ENDS: Fedotenko played 17 minutes, 59 seconds and said his surgically repaired left hip was a sore but fine. ... Feaster said Rohloff (back spasms) has been cleared to practice. ... Feaster said Gerard Dicaire will be evaluated this week "to get his medication squared away." The defenseman has been diagnosed with neurocardiogenic syncope, which causes his heart rate and blood pressure to drop after workouts.