Lightning back on home ice, short-handed on defense

TAMPA — The Lightning was on the St. Pete Times Forum ice Wednesday for its first practice since returning from a 10-day European tour.

Coach Barry Melrose minced no words after back-to-back losses to the Rangers to open the season, stressing a need for more offensive opportunities. The Lightning worked on various scenarios, including power plays, transition offense, rebounds and digging pucks out of the corner boards.

A greater concern was developing on defense without newly acquired D Lukas Krajicek, who was part of a four-player trade Monday with the Canucks.

A pair of new gloves sat in Krajicek's locker, which was marked with his name and the No. 2 he'll presumably have stitched to his jersey. Vice president of operations Brian Lawton said Krajicek could miss Saturday's home opener against the Hurricanes. The arrival of Krajicek, a Czech, has been slowed by a standard issue with his visa, Lightning officials said.

"He'll be here as soon as possible," Lawton said. "It may be for this weekend, it may not."

That would leave the Lightning with five defensemen.

D Paul Ranger, recovering from shoulder surgery, had his first full-contact practice and said he felt much better. But he has not received full medical clearance and will not play Saturday, Melrose said.

Lawton is headed to AHL affiliate Norfolk for its opener Friday knowing he may need to bring up a player Saturday, possibly D Vladimir Mihalik or D Andy Rogers.

"Andy Rogers is playing very well down there," Lawton said. "I had a conversation with the coaches the other day, and even they were saying that. … I thought he played very well here, so I wasn't surprised."

Ranger progressing: Melrose said he hopes Ranger will be cleared for the Oct. 16 game against the Islanders and has been impressed with what he has been able to do. Ranger is recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

"He's been in little drills one on one, but (Wednesday) was a lot of hitting," Melrose said. "He's been skating, and he looks great out there. Obviously we want to err on the side of caution, but it would certainly be nice to have him back in the lineup."

Craig injured: F Ryan Craig left practice early with a groin injury and was listed as day to day. Melrose said Craig got caught on some rough ice. Craig was playing alongside F Evgeny Artyukhin and F Mark Recchi, with Melrose intending to give him playing time.

"It was a freak accident," Melrose said. "He'll be out for a couple days."

Odds and ends: F Jussi Jokinen was excused from practice for personal reasons. … F Steven Stamkos took to the ice after practice to shoot a commercial for Nike Canada. … Melrose said he will attend Friday's Rays-Red Sox American League Championship Series game. "I'm on the bandwagon," he said.

Izzy Gould can be reached at izzygould@me.com or (727) 580-5315.

Lightning back on home ice, short-handed on defense 10/08/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 10, 2008 2:16pm]

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