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Play of newcomers precipitates logjam

By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
Published December 27, 2005

TAMPA - Three is becoming quite the crowd for the Lightning these days.

The plan this season was to play with 20 players and never have anyone sitting around not playing. But with coach John Tortorella losing patience with several forwards, the roster has climbed to 23, the maximum allowed.

First, Evgeny Artyukhin was called up from the minors and has played so well that he has cemented himself in the lineup. Then, with Tortorella sour over the play of Dmitry Afanasenkov and Martin Cibak , the Lightning called up forwards Ryan Craig and Darren Reid . Again, both made an impression, though Reid has leveled off and was a healthy scratch Monday.

"Ryan Craig has shown us that he can kill penalties, and he has scored a couple of goals," Tortorella said. "He's good around the net. He's able to do the little things around the wall. He can play center. So he brings a lot of different things to us."

Enough that he probably will stay for a while.

Meantime, the team continues to bump its head on the salary cap and likely will make a move or two soon.

General manager Jay Feaster did not address the roster situation Monday, but Tortorella said he prefers to go with fewer than 23.

"I don't like having that many," Tortorella said. "We'll look at it and see what we should do."

KUBY RETURNS: Defenseman Pavel Kubina returned after missing two games with a groin strain.

Kubina barely could walk when the team left for the two-day holiday break on Friday night, but he recovered quickly. He said he did nothing on Saturday then rode a stationary bike Sunday.

"The rest did it good," Kubina said.

His mental state last week was about as bad as his physical state.

"To be out of the lineup and we were losing," Kubina said, "it was painful. It was hard not to play."

JUNIOR MINTS: The Lightning has four prospects in the World Junior Championships, which began Monday in Vancouver.

The biggest name is Slovakia defenseman Vladimir Mihalik , the team's first-round pick in the 2005 draft. Mihalik is playing this season for Red Deer of the Western Hockey League, where he has three goals, six assists and 49 penalty minutes in 33 games.

Joining Mihalik on Team Slovakia are left wing Stanislav Lascek , a fifth-round pick in 2005 who leads the Quebec league with 78 points, and right wing Marek Bartanus , a fourth-round pick in 2005.

Goalie Karri Ramo (sixth round, 2004) is playing for Finland.

SITTING OUT: Forwards Afanasenkov, Reid and Chris Dingman were healthy scratches.

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