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Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has informational talk with agent for free-agent goalie Evgeni Nabokov

TAMPA — Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said he received a call from the agent for free-agent G Evgeni Nabokov, who this week was released from his contract with St. Petersburg in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

Yzerman said the conversation was informational only and he has no immediate plans to make changes in net, where Tampa Bay's Mike Smith and Dan Ellis entered Wednesday with the league's worst combined goals-against average (3.43) and save percentage (.872).

"I'm not today prepared to make a change in goal," Yzerman said Wednesday. "The best scenario will be for our guys, who are working extremely hard, to elevate their play and it's no longer an issue."

In 10 seasons with the Sharks, Nabokov, 35, had 293 victories with 50 shutouts, a 2.39 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. He signed a four-year, $24 million deal with St. Petersburg.

The team granted Nabokov his release because of an undisclosed family matter. That started speculation he was headed to Tampa Bay.

But with the Lightning 17-10-4, Yzerman sounded as if Smith and Ellis have time to right the ship.

"Our goaltenders have a job to do," he said. "They're working hard to get better and improve, as are all our players. As long as they keep doing that, we just keep moving ahead."

Yzerman's patience is not unlimited.

"All I can say is every day I'm looking at opportunities that may present themselves to improve the team, and if any opportunity at any position improves the team, I would have to consider it," he said.

VINNY RETURNS: C Vinny Lecavalier, out 15 games with a knuckle injury, said he was to return Saturday against Buffalo but got clearance from doctors before Wednesday's game.

He played 16:58 and had four shots on a line with LW Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim that accounted for 12 of Tampa Bay's 31 shots.

"I thought my legs would be tired, but I had a hop in my skating," Lecavalier said.

KNEE WORRY: C Nate Thompson was hit knee-to-knee late in the third period by Atlanta's Eric Boulton. No penalty was called. Thompson did not play in the overtime. There was no word on his condition.

RITOLA UPDATE: F Mattias Ritola was a late scratch when Lecavalier was cleared.

He also did not get an injection directly into his right ear, as planned, to fight Meniere's disease, which causes dizziness and ringing in the ear. Instead, he took a new medication as a pill.

Ritola said it will take five days to know if the pill is working. Another test will be next week's two-game New York road trip. Flying worsens his symptoms.

DOWNIE UPDATE: RW Steve Downie (high ankle sprain) is out of a walking boot but has no timetable for his return or when he will start skating.

ODDS AND ENDS: The shorthanded goal Atlanta scored in the first period was the league-worst seventh allowed by the Lightning and the sixth allowed at home, tying in 12 games the team record for a season. … LW Johan Harju was scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has informational talk with agent for free-agent goalie Evgeni Nabokov 12/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:21am]
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