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Has former coach Barry Melrose violated his contract with Tampa Bay Lightning

OTTAWA — The Lightning apparently is investigating whether former coach Barry Melrose is in breach of contract because of comments he made about the team and players since his Nov. 14 firing.

"Everybody's contract is confidential, so I can't really comment on any of that," general manager Brian Lawton said Saturday. "So I'm sure you can figure it out, but I can't comment on it."

It is fairly standard for contracts to include a code of conduct clause. While it is unclear if that is in Melrose's three-year, $2.25-million deal, of which he is being paid full value, that might be a basis of inquiry.

Melrose, who has been rehired as an ESPN analyst, has said he wasn't supported by Lightning ownership or management.

He said he was fired because he would not cave to ownership demands he play certain players certain minutes. He said he hopes Tampa Bay does not win another game.

Owner Len Barrie characterized Melrose's job performance as "total negligence."

The back-and-forth is highly unusual for a firing, and players and coaches say they are done with the controversy.

"We don't listen to what he says anymore," captain Vinny Lecavalier said of Melrose. "We don't pay attention. We have good players here and good coaches. We're going forward."

"Honestly, the guys don't even care," coach Rick Tocchet said. "It doesn't matter what he says. Stuff like that is like a fly on your back. You just swat it away."

GOAL ORIENTED: D Andrej Meszaros, who spent the previous three seasons in Ottawa, said he wasn't worried about the reception he would get from Senators fans. More worrisome is he had not scored a goal.

"It's been on my mind since the beginning of the season," said Meszaros, who had 26 with Ottawa.

Tocchet said he advised Mes­zaros to take something off his booming slap shot to increase control and better hit the net.

"Hopefully after the first one, they'll keep going in," Meszaros said.

Oh, and Meszaros' first appearance on the ice was ignored by the crowd.

POWER POINT: To help kick-start a power play that entered Saturday 0-for-21, Tocchet used Marek Malik at the point because of his composure and passing ability. "He's pretty good with the puck," Tocchet said. "He's done a pretty good job for us." The Lightning went 0-for-5 on Saturday.

HALPERN CLOSE: Tocchet said that C Jeff Halpern (knee) likely will play either Wednesday for AHL Norfolk or Thursday for the Lightning against the Avalanche.

MINOR MOVES: D Mike Lundin cleared waivers, was assigned to Norfolk and picked up an assist Saturday. C Chris Gratton reported and is expected to play this week.

ODDS AND ENDS: C Jussi Jokinen had zero goals in 13 games. Said Tocchet: "I'm not happy with his play." … Tocchet referred to the four days before Tampa Bay's next game as a "mini training camp." … LW Ryan Malone (upper body) could play Thursday, Tocchet said. "If it was Game 7, he probably could have played (Saturday). But we have to lick this injury so when he gets in, he's in for good." … LW Matt Pettinger (knee) played after missing nine games. … LW Radek Smolenak was scratched.

Has former coach Barry Melrose violated his contract with Tampa Bay Lightning 12/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 15, 2008 2:27pm]

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