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Ryan Malone of Tampa Bay Lightning would like a piece of Mellon Arena in his Pittsburgh hometown

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning LW Ryan Malone is such a Pittsburgh guy that he said he already has asked for a few seats from Mellon Arena, the Penguins' longtime home that will be torn down after this season.

"That would be pretty cool to have three or four seats," Malone said. "I don't know when they're going to tear it down, but it was fun while it lasted."

Tampa Bay makes its last visit to Mellon Arena tonight to face the Penguins and wrap up a four-game road trip, and to say goodbye to the 48-year-old Igloo, the league's oldest stadium.

The Penguins next season move into the massive Consol Energy Center across the street.

Tonight's visit is especially big for Malone, a Pittsburgh native who played for the Penguins in the 2003-04 season and from 2005 to 2008, and coach Rick Tocchet, who played for Pittsburgh from 1992 to 1994 and won the 1992 Stanley Cup.

"For me, it was always being around the rink when it was empty," said Malone, whose father, Greg, was a Penguins scout for 16 years and now is Tampa Bay's head pro scout.

"Me and my brother … would run around the rink or jump on the ice after practice. And having a chance to play there and have some success there was a dream come true for a hometown kid."

Tocchet had his best NHL season with the Penguins in 1992-93: 48 goals, 109 points and 252 penalty minutes.

"Unbelievable memories," he said. "It seems like the fans were right on top you and … maybe it was the team we had, but the ice was always good. You felt good every home game because the ice was good. And I needed good ice because I had snow boots on."

MALONE OUT: Malone skated hard Tuesday, but missed his 10th straight game after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He also might miss tonight.

"It would be nice, obviously," he said of playing in Pittsburgh. "It would be nice if I was playing (Tuesday). But I think another good skate will do me some good. We'll see how it is (today), and we'll take it from there."

HURTING: With a lower-body injury to Victor Hedman, the Lightning has only five healthy defensemen, and a callup from AHL Norfolk seems likely.

ALSO HURT: Matt Walker, who skated Tuesday but was held out with a lower-body injury, Matt Smaby (back spasms) and David Hale (ankle). Kurtis Foster (head) played after missing one game.

WELCOME BACK, Z: C Zenon Konopka played nine games from 2006-08 for the Blue Jackets, but spent most of his time with the organization's AHL affiliate in Syracuse . "Those guys there know who I am," said Konopka, who leads the NHL with 244 penalty minutes and 29 fights. "If I didn't come with a rugged, risky, physical game, they would be disappointed." Konopka fought Mike Blunden 3:00 into the third period and floored him with a solid right to the head. The elbowing penalty that went with it was the start of Tampa Bay's parade to the penalty box.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning was the last NHL team Blue Jackets RW Rick Nash scored against in his career. … Columbus is 14-1-2 against the Southeast the past three seasons. … Tampa Bay RW Mark Parrish also was scratched.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Ryan Malone of Tampa Bay Lightning would like a piece of Mellon Arena in his Pittsburgh hometown 03/31/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 1:05pm]
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