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Marek Malik? Lightning blue line in flux



Marek Malik could be the next addition to the Lightning's ever-evolving defense. The 6-foot-5, 233-pound unrestricted free agent is expected in Tampa this week, though it is unclear if he will sign a one-year, $1-million contract or practice as a tryout.

Add the expected return, perhaps as soon as Thursday against the Islanders, of Paul Ranger (shoulder), and Saturday's addition of Lukas Krajicek, and you have a real episode of Extreme Makeover.

After the team (0-2-1) allowed 126 shots, the worst three-game stretch in club history, it needs it.

Malik, 33, a 12-year veteran, spent the past three seasons with the Rangers. But his relationship last season with coach Tom Renney was stormy. The New York Daily News reported Malik, after a January victory, refused to shake Renney's hand. Renney would normally shake his players hands in the locker room after victories. When Malik refused, some teammates got in his face.

Coach Barry Melrose on Sunday said the Lightning's defense has to be better with puck possession.

"It's composure," he said. "If you have a guy like (Chris) Pronger, and you have a guy like (Nicklas) Lidstrom, where they have the experience to, when they're under pressure, take take an extra step and make a direct pass; right now, our D, when they're under pressure, it's around the boards."

Beyond that, Melrose would like more physical play off his blue line, and that's where Malik, who has 584 penalty minutes in 649 career games, might help.

Bottom line, Melrose said, "What's happening now is unacceptable."

Other notes: Ranger said he will know Monday or Tuesday if he will play on Thursday, and Melrose said the team is as confident as it has been about a quick return. If nothing else, Ranger's return will help with puck possession and the transition and lower the average 27:32 of ice time Matt Carle is lugging. ... Center Jeff Halpern (knee) said he is skating an hour a day five days a week and still expects a mid- to late-December return. As for the absurd rumors Halpern has gotten fat and his career is over, I can tell you, that is not even close to being true. ... Merlose joked of the three-game season, "It feels like 30."

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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