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Play of goaltenders leaves Tortorella frustrated

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
Published November 11, 2005

TAMPA - John Grahame has played okay but not great. Sean Burke is out with a groin strain. Welcome to the continuing saga of How the Netminders Turn.

"We're not thrilled with our goaltending," coach John Tortorella said Thursday. "First of all, one that's been playing most. And we can't get the other guy out of the tub to play. We're not sure what that injury is about." Tortorella also mentioned an inconsistent power play and mental mistakes that contributed to three losses in Canada.

"It's not the blame game here," he said. "But goaltending is an important part of winning and losing in this league."

That said, Burke's injury gave the Lightning a chance to assess organizational depth at the position. The latest shuffle: Gerald Coleman up from AHL Springfield, Brian Eklund down.

If the team determines neither is as developed as hoped, Jay Feaster said he might have to acquire a more-seasoned goalie as insurance.

"It's one of those things we need to be very mindful of," the general manager said. "We tried different things in the summer, and they didn't work.

"The evaluation process is a constant one."

For Tortorella, too. The coach said the Lightning does not have a No.1 and Coleman is not tied to the bench.

"I never try to force anybody in there," Tortorella said. "If Johnny Grahame plays well, he'll continue playing. If Johnny Grahame falters, I am not hesitant to put a 20-year-old in there.

"If he plays well, he'll play the next one. It's pretty simple."

BURKE BETTER: Burke skated for the first time in five days and said he moved well.

"I think I turned a corner," he said. "We'll see how it feels (today) and go from there."

ANDREYCHUK BACK: After sitting out Tuesday as a healthy scratch, captain Dave Andreychuk played against the Rangers.

"I've tried to turn the page," he said of his first Tampa Bay benching. "I have to contribute more, and we have to start winning games. It's one game. It's not the end of the world."

CLEARING THE AIR: Chris Dingman, scratched in nine of the past 10 games, said he spoke to Tortorella about where he stands - or sits, as the case may be.

"He just conveyed to me that he knows it's tough right now but he knows I'm working hard," the left wing said. "It was a good talk. I feel a lot better about things."

Dingman said he will not be sour.

"I'm not content to sit, but I'm not going to be a problem," he said. "I'm going to make sure that every day I come in I'm going to be in a good mood. There's nothing worse than seeing a guy hanging his head."

A NOTABLE FIRST: Coleman is the first player from the NHL's diversity program to suit up in the regular season.

"It was unbelievable," he said. "I was like a kid in a candy store being with all those guys. All I can do is try to prove myself."

ODDS AND ENDS: Vinny Prospal's assist gave him points in eight straight games to tie a personal best. ... Marty St. Louis' goal was his fifth and first in six games. ... Defensemen Pavel Kubina and Cory Sarich switched partners. Kubina played with Nolan Pratt, Sarich with Darryl Sydor. Tortorella said he changed because Kubina and Sydor struggled against the rush.

[Last modified November 11, 2005, 01:19:18]

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