Miracle cure for Tampa Bay Lightning F Mattias Ritola's Meniere's disease: earplugs
Okay, so that is a bit of a stretch. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mattias Ritola also is on medication to try and control Meniere's disease, which causes a ringing in his right ear and dizziness. But Ritola said the most effective part of his treatment came when he began wearing simple earplugs while he was flying in airplanes.
Flying , especially the pressure changes in takeoff and landing, exacerbated the problem. But the earplugs, which contain a small top-to bottom hole, help control the pressure on Ritola's ears. The result: Ritola said he has not had an attack since before Christmas.
"It's great," said Ritola, who went through a big test last week during Tampa Bay's week-long, four-game road trip.
What a difference talking to Ritola, who, during the Lightning's trip to western Canada in early December was so discouraged about his condition he said he might have to quit the game. Ritola also is already deaf in his left ear because of illnesses he had as a youngster back in his native Sweden, so when he got ringing in his right ear, he could barely hear at all.
He said during the western Canada trip he was scheduled to get some medication injected into his ear. But that plan was scrapped, and the earplugs were given a chance. The funny things is, head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said the earplugs are so low-tech, you can get them at any drugstore.
"It's so nice," Ritola said. "I can go around the locker room and talk to people. Before that I couldn't do it. I couldn't hear."
Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected, Dwayne Roloson is back in net. ... Wing Sean Bergenheim is back after missing a game due to illness, but right wing Steve Downie might be given the day off with what was called a leg problem, but certainly is related to the high ankle sprain that caused him to miss 13 games. ... Goaltender Mike Smith skated with the team for a second straight day. Smith said he feels pretty good, but still has some pain. Coach Guy Boucher said Smith likely will be out another week. ... So, what's up with the Lightning power play, which is on a 1-for-17 streak? Not much according to Boucher, who said the past two games the unit has played well, and moved the puck well, though it has just one goal with the extra man. Look for Boucher to start Wednesday's game with the Capitals with the same first unit (Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Simon Gagne and Ryan Malone), though don't be surprised to see him exchange Brett Clark, who will start on the second unit, with Gagne. ... The deficient power play might be contributing to Stamkos' drought. The center has zero goals and one assist in his past five games. ... Defenseman Victor Hedman has made three mistakes in the past two games that led directly to opponent goals, he is minus-6 his past three games and he is just sick over it. "It's really tough," he said. "You just have to battle through it. I know what I can do. I . I know I'm not going to do the same mistakes again. It's just been a tough stretch. You just have to battle through it." Boucher said Hedman just has to keep better focus and make better decisions. Part of the problem is he is just 20 years old. "He's got to stop pinching at the wrong moments," Boucher said. "Sometimes he's great. But when he makes a mistake he tends to try to compensate for it and overcompensates, so what happens is he gets himself out of position. He's a great player, but the reality is he's a young defenseman." ... Boucher on the Capitals: "I see a difference from the first months to now. I think they're a lot harder to get through, defensively. They're back-checking hard and their guys are in the way, whereas before, most of their guys would be on the attack all the time. So, they have the same kind of offense, but they're better defensively, so they're a better team than they were two months ago." ... As we read in today's paper, Boucher admitted his players are "traveled out," after playing a league-high 26 road games. To that end, he likely will give the players Thursday off before the Friday-Saturday back-to-back against the Devils and at Carolina. ... For Boucher, one of the biggest differences between the minor leagues and NHL is that in the NHL, every game is huge. "Every game is a tough game," he said. "I wonder what the playoffs are going to be. Every game is important. 'Oh, this is a low-end team, you can't lose. This is a division team, you've got ti win that one. this is a game for first place.' Okay, so when do we get a normal game?"