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Malik to make Lightning debut Saturday vs. Sharks

TAMPA — It has been seven days since free-agent D Marek Malik showed up at the St. Pete Times Forum and began his mini training camp.

With the Lightning convinced Malik is ready, and with Malik's work visa secured, vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said Wednesday he has "no doubt" the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder will play Saturday against the Sharks.

Malik will wear No. 22, previously worn by D Dan Boyle, who returns to the St. Pete Times Forum for the first time since July's trade to San Jose.

"It's been helpful for him not to be thrown in right away," Lawton said of Malik, who still must sign a one-year contract to which he has tentatively agreed. "He hasn't had a training camp, and it gives him a chance to get his feet wet.

"He's a big man, and the last thing you want to do is have a big guy out there who hasn't had a chance to get a good four, five, six days skating at a very high tempo. He's working hard. I have no doubt he'll be ready."

The addition, barring other personnel moves, will put Tampa Bay's roster at the 23-player limit, including newly acquired W Matt Pettinger and W Jason Ward, who cleared waivers Wednesday but practiced with the team.

The Lightning has 30 days to assign Ward to AHL Norfolk, if it desires. But with F Ryan Craig (groin) still working his way back and the schedule about to kick into high gear, Ward might be considered a hedge against injuries.

VRBATA HURT?: RW Radim Vrbata left practice and limped slightly to the locker room after flexing his right leg on the bench, though coach Barry Melrose said Vrbata took a shot off a hand.

LAWTON NAMED GM: Lawton, who oversees all hockey operations, said also being named general manager will not change his job description. Owner Oren Koules said in a statement the move more precisely defines Lawton's position. The job has been vacant since Jay Feaster "resigned" in July.

Lawton is attending today's GM meetings in Chicago but not, he said, with the intention of making a personnel move.

BUDDY SYSTEM: Pettinger, who practiced with C Chris Gratton and Vrbata, said it is ridiculous to believe he was claimed off waivers because he is friends with owner Len Barrie and an investor in Barrie's Bear Mountain resort in Canada.

"As much as he is my friend, it's too much of a business to bring someone in because he's a buddy," Pettinger said. "He's the first one to tell you, the NHL is serious business and he's here to do one thing, and that's win."

Malik to make Lightning debut Saturday vs. Sharks 10/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2008 6:11pm]
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