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Two fourth-liners benched; minor-leaguers called up

By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
Published December 18, 2005

TAMPA - Coach John Tortorella has lost patience with fourth-liners Martin Cibak and Dmitry Afanasenkov. So much so that the Lightning put a strain on the salary cap by calling up two kids from minor-league Springfield to bench the struggling veterans.

Cibak and Afanasenkov were scratched from Saturday's game against the Red Wings and replaced by Ryan Craig and Darren Reid.

"From my point of view, the guys who are out aren't offering anything," Tortorella said. "So we're going to make some changes and try to create some identity with our bottom two lines."

Tortorella has complained all season about the lack of productivity from the third and fourth lines and said the team won't become a serious contender unless the bottom two lines start scoring. He added, however, that he has been pleased with Tim Taylor, Rob DiMaio and Evgeny Artyukhin.

But Cibak and Afanasenkov are another story. Cibak has two goals and two assists in 23 games, and Afanasenkov has one goal and two assists in 31.

"We have gotten nothing offensively from a number of guys on our bottom two lines," Tortorella said. "We've gotten nothing from them physically. So I guess what I'm asking the players to do, at the end of the day, (is to) look at yourself and say, "What am I offering this team?' "

Tortorella said the Lightning is so concerned about the bottom two lines that it is exploring trade possibilities.

"It's awful tough with this (new collective-bargaining agreement and salary cap) to make deals and we're looking," Tortorella said. "But sometimes your best bet is within your organization. ... This is why you have a minor-league team - to give some kids a chance."

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: Craig, 23, and Reid, 22, made their NHL debuts. At Springfield, Craig had 12 goals, which tied him for the team lead, and 10 assists. Reid had four goals and six assists. Craig and Reid were selected with back-to-back picks (Nos. 255 and 256) in the 2002 draft.

RUSTY RESTS: Right wing Ruslan Fedotenko missed Saturday's game with a bruised left hip, the result of a low check from Phoenix's Denis Gauthier on Thursday. Fedotenko said he is improving daily and likely won't miss much more time. But he wants to be cautious because it's the same hip that required surgery last summer.

Meantime, he said he had not seen a replay of the check, which did not result in apenalty, but did appear aimed at his knees.

"I'm not going to say it was dirty," Fedotenko said, "I saw him coming, I just didn't think he was going to go that low."

[Last modified December 18, 2005, 01:02:23]

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