NEWARK, N.J. — Sending D Janne Niskala to Europe solved the Lightning's short-term roster crunch and set the stage for an interesting evaluation period.
Niskala's departure Wednesday reduced the roster to 22, one under the limit, and opened a spot for RW Radim Vrbata (groin), who is set to come off injured reserve. Vrbata might even play tonight against the Rangers as the Lightning contemplates more personnel moves.
Vrbata, who during the summer signed a three-year, $9-million contract, has zero goals in five games.
"I want to see him play well," coach Barry Melrose said. "I want him to come in and be hungry for the puck, get shots and score goals."
Niskala was dismayed by his lack of playing time and, with his wife pregnant, asked to be moved, general manager Brian Lawton said. He had a goal, three points and averaged 13:42 of ice time in six games, but was a healthy scratch the next four.
It was unclear to what team Niskala will be assigned.
Niskala's contract allows a move to Europe and relieves the Lighting of further financial obligation. He can be brought back if he clears recall waivers.
Lawton said the team will for now go with six blue-liners.
"Janne wasn't happy being the seventh D," Melrose said, adding, "I don't want guys who don't want to be here."
LIGHTNING COO resigns: Chief operating officer Sean Henry resigned. Henry said the parting, which will happen Dec. 12, is amicable.
Henry said owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules asked him to stay.
"They have been tremendous, and it was enticing," Henry said. "But for me, because they are so hands-on, it was something we've never had before. I'm selfish when it comes to my job. I always want to row."
Henry, in the job since the summer of 1999, was responsible for all event operations at the St. Pete Times Forum and helped build the venue into one of the nation's busiest.
There was no official word on a replacement, but Brian Rogers from Barrie's Bear Mountain resort in Canada likely will take some of the responsibility, as will some Lightning department heads.
HALPERN SKATES: Jeff Halpern's rehab took a significant step forward when the center participated in the morning skate. Halpern (knee) said his mid- to late-December return is unchanged. He said he hopes, optimistically, to take part in full-contact drills in about three weeks.
ODDS AND ENDS: Melrose was booed lightly for disparaging remarks he made last year about Newark. … RW Marty St. Louis played his 550th Lightning game. … Ws Jason Ward and Matt Pettinger were scratched.