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Melrose shuffles Lightning's top two lines

TAMPA — If at first you don't succeed and score, tinker with your top lines and try again.

At least that's coach Barry Melrose's immediate plan.

He will move LW Vinny Prospal from the first line, where he has teamed with C Vinny Lecavalier and RW Marty St. Louis, to the second line for tonight's home opener against the Hurricanes. Ryan Malone will flop-flop with Prospal, whose new linemates will be rookie C Steven Stamkos and RW Radim Vrbata.

It's not change merely for change's sake after two losses to the Rangers in Prague, Czech Republic, to open the season, both by 2-1 scores.

"I'm hoping Malone will give (Lecavalier and St. Louis) a physical presence," Melrose said Friday. "He's used to playing with talented guys in Pittsburgh, and (I hope) it gets him going."

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Malone, whose negotiating rights were obtained in a trade with Pittsburgh last summer, had just one shot in the games against the Rangers. He had 27 goals, including a team-high six winners, and 24 assists last season.

As for Prospal, Melrose said "his offensive ability and vision and creativity can help Steven." Stamkos, the top overall pick in the 2008 draft, has three shots and no goals.

"You have to be able to play with everybody," Prospal said simply. "We'll see how it's going to go."

"I've never played with Ryan Malone, so obviously there's going to be an adjustment," Lecavalier said. "Every player is different, but … Ryan Malone is an unbelievable player."

Help on the way, but from where?: Melrose said he's been told newly acquired D Lukas Krajicek will be here by 1 p.m. today, in plenty of time to play against the Hurricanes; he has been skating every day in Vancouver waiting for visa issues to be resolved. Even if those issues are resolved, team executives Brian Lawton and Tom Kurvers were in Norfolk, Va., on Friday and will return to Tampa with a defenseman from the team's AHL affiliate so the Lightning doesn't have just five defensemen tonight.

"If you've got four good ones, I'll go with four," Melrose quipped.

And in goal … : Melrose continued to play it coy with publicly announcing whether Olaf Kolzig or Mike Smith will start in goal tonight. He did say he would let that person know Friday.

"The day of the game is a goalie's day," he said, referring to the morning preparation. "He basically calls the type of shots he wants, how many."

Odds and ends: F Ryan Craig, who suffered a groin injury in Wednesday's practice and was listed as day to day, could now be out two weeks, Melrose said. … The Lightning is billing tonight's game as its home opener, but technically the first game it played in Prague was a home game. … The Rays' American League Championship Series Game 2 against Boston will be shown on all concourse TVs and the parking garage wall. … About 1,300 tickets remained for tonight's game, including 200 at $8 each that will go on sale at the Times Forum box office at 9 a.m.

>>Today

Lightning vs. Hurricanes

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

Injuries: Tampa Bay — F Ryan Craig (groin), C Jeff Halpern (knee), D Paul Ranger (shoulder), W Jason Ward (groin) are out. Carolina — F Scott Walker (hand), F Justin Williams (foot), F Zach Boychuk (wrist) are out.

Key stats: Mike Smith is expected to start if coach Barry Melrose decides to rotate goalies. Smith started the Lightning opener against the Rangers and turned away 39 of 41 shots in a 2-1 loss. ... Lightning G Olaf Kolzig lost his start against the Rangers the next day, also 2-1, and turned away 37 of 39 shots. ... Fs Marty St. Louis and Adam Hall have the only Lightning goals. F Vinnny Lecavalier leads Tampa Bay with nine shots. ... Zach Boychuk was the first Hurricanes player since 2003 to make the team's opening-night roster in his draft year.

Melrose shuffles Lightning's top two lines 10/10/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 10, 2008 9:29pm]
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