Lawton named GM; Vrbata leaves practice
It won't change his job description at all, but vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton on Wednesday was named executive vice president and general manager. The GM position has been vacant since Jay Feaster "resigned" in July. Lawton leaves today for the GM meetings that begin Thursday in Chicago.
Right wing Radim Vrbata had to leave Wednesday's practice after spending some time on the bench flexing his right leg. Vrbata walked himself to the locker room but was noticeably limping. There was no report about the problem or how bad could be the injury. But coach Barry Melrose said Vrbata apparently took a shot off the hand, which seemed kind of strange since Vrbata was limping. Since NHL teams no longer have to disclose injuries, we'll have to wait, for now, for some official word.
Wing Jason Ward practiced, which would seem to indicate he cleared waivers. It was unclear what the team was going to do with him or the roster. With newly acquired forward Matt Pettinger, the team is at 22 players, one under the limit. There are indications defenseman Marek Malik may be in Saturday's lineup against the Sharks and forward Ryan Craig (groin) is on injured reserve. But the fact that Ward was not immediately sent to the minors seems to indicate calculations are being done. Tampa Bay has 30 days to re-assign Ward if it wants.
Pettinger skated with center Chris Gratton and Vrbata. Asked about his relationship with owner Len Barrie, Pettinger said it is crazy to believe the team would bring him aboard because he invested in Barrie's Bear Mountain resort.
"As much as he's my friend, it's too much of a business to bring someone in because he's a buddy," said Pettinger, friends with Barrie from Victoria, British Columbia. "People can look at it and say, 'He's bringing in his buddies,' and this and that. But he's the first one to tell you, the NHL is serious business, and he's here to do one thing, win."
Coach Barry Melrose had interesting takes on some of his players. Of right wing Adam Hall, he said, "Adam Hall is a very good hockey player. He's so disciplined and so strong, can take draws. I can't believe there's a better third- or fourth-line guy in the league than Adam Hall right now."
Of Vinny Lecavalier, whose winning goal Tuesday came after he created time and space by coming off the side wall: "Vinny has to go to the net. He's a big man. With video today, people see him there (along the wall) and everybody goes to him. He's got to get off that wall. He's got to do different things. He's got to change the way he plays too."