Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mattias Ritola has inner-ear disease

BOSTON — Mattias Ritola sustained a ruptured right eardrum during the summer diving into a pool while vacationing in Turkey. So when the forward experienced ringing in the ear and dizziness in late September as a member of the Red Wings, that was believed to be the culprit.

But Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman said Thursday that Lightning doctors determined that Ritola, whom Tampa Bay claimed off waivers in October, has Meniere's disease, caused by a buildup of fluid in the balance-controlling inner ear.

Ritola said he doesn't have symptoms every day. When he does, they can be debilitating, and they have been the reason for several game scratches, including Tuesday at Toronto.

"I woke up in the morning and knew I couldn't play," he said. "It's unbelievable. It's really been frustrating."

The National Institutes of Health says there is no clear cause for the disease. The good news, Ritola said, is doctors told him it will go away. Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said Ritola is on several medications. "We're trying to find the right combination," Mulligan said.

"They're trying to do everything they can," said Ritola, who was scratched against the Bruins but not because of a Meniere's flare-up. "Hopefully they can figure it out."

Said Yzerman, who was adamant Detroit did not put Ritola on waivers because of his symptoms, "It's very frustrating. It's unpredictable."

STILL WAITING: Yzerman said he still has interest in free agent defenseman and power-play specialist Marc-Andre Bergeron but has not heard from agent Paul Corbeil. Corbeil, by phone, said Tampa Bay still is in the running and Bergeron, cleared for full contact after summer knee surgery, is evaluating his options: "We just want to be sure."

FATIGUE FACTOR: C Steven Stamkos is tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby with a league-best 21 goals, but he hasn't scored in four games, his longest drought since March.

Coach Guy Boucher said he believes Stamkos is tired. With LW Simon Gagne playing only two games since missing 18 with a neck injury and C Vinny Lecavalier out 11 with a knuckle injury, Stamkos and LW Marty St. Louis average more than 20 minutes. "He's tired," Boucher said. "Same with Marty; they're tied. They've played so much."

Boucher wants his top forwards playing about 18 minutes, perhaps less. But St. Louis' average 21:44 was tops in the league among wings, and Stamkos' 20:56 was fifth among centers.

"I won't say it's tired," Stamkos said. "I want to play as much as I can. But me and Marty have played a lot lately. It has been tough. It's a grind. It takes a toll on your body."

ODDS AND ENDS: Bruins C Marc Savard (postconcussion syndrome) played for the first time since Game 7 of last season's East semifinals. … D Matt Smaby played after missing nine games with an ankle injury. … D Mathieu Roy is expected to be reassigned to AHL Norfolk. ... Bruins wing and former Lightning Mark Recchi had a goal and an assist. The assist was the 934th of his career, tying Al MacInnis for 14th all time.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mattias Ritola has inner-ear disease 12/02/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 3, 2010 12:14am]

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