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Stickless Paul Szczechura stymies Pittsburgh Penguins star for Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA — C Paul Szczechura on Saturday defended Penguins superstar C Evgeni Malkin — stickless.

The Lightning committed consecutive minor penalties in the second period with the score tied at 1.

Credit Szczechura's play during the second penalty. After G Mike Smith lost his stick, D Victor Hedman passed his off. In turn, Szczechura handed his to Hedman. Szczechura blocked a shot from Malkin and disrupted him two more times.

"That's almost impossible with no stick against Malkin," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "That's as good a clinic as I've seen a guy with no stick. He did as best he could in that position with no stick against one of the top three players in the world."

Szczechura said in that situation, "You feel useless."

"It's the hardest thing in the world," he said. "You really can't block a pass. You just try to get in his way and not let him shoot it, I guess."

The Lightning escaped and now has killed 15 consecutive short-handed situations.

Goalie situation: The Lightning signed G Jaroslav Janus to a three-year entry-level contract Friday, the deadline to move him out of juniors. GM Brian Lawton said Janus, a sixth-round pick in June, reached his potential in the Ontario Hockey League and must see better shooters.

Janus, 20, started Saturday for AHL Norfolk, making 30 saves in a 3-2 loss. The Admirals now have three goalies, including Dustin Tokarski, 20, (a fifth-round pick in 2008) and Riku Helenius, 21, (the 15th overall pick in 2006). Lawton said he hopes to come up with a solution in the next 10 days.

That might not be good news for Helenius. Goalies coach Cap Raeder said Helenius' development has plateaued somewhat.

"(Janus) and Tokarski will probably play the bulk of (the games)," Lawton said. "Riku will have to wait his turn."

Attendance spike: The Lightning had its first sellout since March 3, also against the Penguins. The announced 20,109 was Tampa Bay's largest since 20,454 against Montreal on Dec. 30, 2008.

A scare: Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said "everybody's fine" after a stretcher was wheeled into the coaches room after the game. No one was brought out. Asked if anyone was in trouble, Bylsma pointed to the players' locker room and said, "The ones who are in trouble are in there."

Odds and ends: Former NHL All-Star Mark Parrish executed a second 25-day pro tryout contract with Norfolk. He has eight goals and six assists in 27 games. … C Vinny Lecavalier is 4-for-10 for his career on penalty shots, including Saturday's failure. The Lightning is 7-for-35 all time and 0-for-2 this season. … RW Steve Downie played his 100th NHL game. … D David Hale, D Matt Walker (lower body), C Jeff Halpern (lower body) and LW Todd Fedoruk (lower body) were scratched.

Izzy Gould can be reached at [email protected]

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Stickless Paul Szczechura stymies Pittsburgh Penguins star for Tampa Bay Lightning 01/02/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 2, 2010 9:51pm]
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