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Lightning's Vrbata returns tonight after benching

TAMPA — RW Radim Vrbata will be back in the lineup tonight against the Thrashers after a one-game benching.

"I've got to give Vrbata a chance," coach Barry Melrose said Monday. "I wanted him to watch a game and, hopefully, it will spur him on. And he had a good practice, so, hopefully, that will get Vrbata going."

If Vrbata got anything out of watching Saturday's 1-0 shootout loss to the Wild, he wasn't saying.

"Maybe a first- or second-year player," he said. "But I don't think you play over 400 games, I don't think you pick up anything from the press box. That's my point of view."

Vrbata, with zero points and zero hits in four games, practiced on a line with C Chris Gratton and Mark Recchi.

Enforcer David Koci, who played just 41 seconds in his first game Saturday and took consecutive penalties, will be scratched, Melrose said.

MALIK UPDATE: No word on when D Marek Malik will sign.

"He's not in great shape," Melrose said. "He's worked hard three days in a row, and we'll evaluate him (today). But as of now, he needs more work."

Melrose said Tampa Bay still plans to sign Malik, who continues to skate with the team.

"He's a solid NHL defenseman," he said. "He gives us something we don't have, a big, wide body back there. And he's an excellent penalty killer."

PENALTY WOES: The Lightning had seven minors against the Wild. But Melrose had more to say about what was not called:

"We take too many penalties, but I also think (Minnesota) took more than three. Some things that were called on us could have been called on Minny five or six times, too. Ours were penalties by the letter of the law. But there was stuff going on at the other end, too, that I thought were penalties that weren't called."

ODDS AND ENDS: C Ryan Craig (groin) could be ready for Saturday's game with the Sharks, Melrose said. … The Lightning has played five straight one-goal games, all losses. The team record, set last season, for consecutive one-goal games, win or lose, is six from Jan. 31 to Feb. 12 (3-2-1). … Buy a lower-level ticket tonight and get a free ticket to Saw V on Thursday at Centro Ybor.

Lightning's Vrbata returns tonight after benching 10/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 8:47am]

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