tampabay.com

Three clear waivers, bolster AHL affiliate

Darche and MacDonald clear waivers

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published November 14, 2007


TAMPA - With 20 players on its roster, the Lightning won't have any game-day scratches. It lowered its projected payroll to about $44.5-million and bolstered its struggling minor-league affiliate.

"It's both financial and operational," general manager Jay Feaster said of Tuesday's moves.

Forwards Mathieu Darche and Craig MacDonald cleared waivers and were sent to AHL Norfolk with defenseman Matt Smaby. That leaves Tampa Bay with a bare-bones 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders, and a payroll much closer to its stated $44-million budget.

It also leaves the team in an interesting logistical position. With no spares to tap on the shoulder, if there is an injury, a replacement must be called up from Norfolk.

No big deal, Feaster said: "These guys are very accessible to us. If we had our affiliate somewhere out on the West Coast and it was four time zones away and it took three days to get them in, then it would be a major problem."

Feaster said Norfolk, which has scored 29 goals in 13 games, will benefit from the new blood. But he stressed he is not burying those he demoted.

"I think guys understand that with coach John Tortorella it's, 'What have you done for me last shift,"' Feaster said.

"As I told (Darche and MacDonald), if somebody plays poorly within the bottom six forwards (tonight) and Torts talks to them on Thursday and they play poorly again on Friday, they'll be back with us Saturday."

GOOD JOB: Give defenseman Doug Janik credit for surviving preseason doubts and Smaby's challenge to win a spot as the No.6 defenseman.

"He's tried to make a difference," Tortorella said. "I root for him. He's an easy guy to root for."

Said Janik: "It's nice to come to the rink and know you're going to be part of it."

But Feaster said being "part of it" does not lessen expectations.

"Doug has won that sixth spot for right now, but whatever you do, don't exhale," Feaster said. "If you exhale, there will be someone coming in to take your spot. So from that standpoint, I'm not concerned about the lack of competition, if you will, here."

NEW TV PARTNER: The Lightning announced six games on Ch.66 (Ion, formerly Pax), beginning tonight. Seventy-eight of the season's 82 games will now be televised.

Other games on Ch.66: Nov.24 (Devils), Dec.15 (Capitals), Jan.15 (Avalanche), Jan.22 (Oilers) and Feb.20 (Sabres).

GRAND OPENING: Defenseman Brad Lukowich said Friday's opening of his Dallas restaurant/club, Luke's Sports Grill, went off without a hitch.

Lukowich said his wife, Cara, oversaw the party while he was traveling with the team.

"She was the muscle," he said, adding there were no invitations. "At 6 o'clock we started text messaging friends, and we were packed at 10."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.