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Tampa Bay Lightning signs defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron

WASHINGTON — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman is risking the league will not be interested in a 30-year-old defenseman coming off major reconstructive knee surgery.

So, at noon today he will put Marc-Andre Bergeron on 24-hour waivers to get the power-play specialist, signed Tuesday night to a one-year, free agent contract, to AHL Norfolk.

"Obviously," Yzerman said, "it's a bit of a gamble."

Bergeron, whose contract will pay $1 million if he is in the NHL (prorated to the number of games) and $105,000 in the minors, could have been sent to Norfolk without waivers had he been on the active roster and sent down on a conditioning assignment.

"But (a conditioning assignment) allows for two weeks or five games," Yzerman said. "We feel he needs more time. We want him to play a significant number of games, so when he gets back to the NHL, he's up and running."

Bergeron would not need recall waivers to go from the minors to the NHL because his salary is not more than $105,000.

Bergeron, one of the league's top power-play quarterbacks known for his big shot, had seven goals and 22 points with the extra man last season with the Canadiens and 13 goals and 34 points overall in 60 games.

In his past two seasons, Bergeron tied for fourth among defensemen with 27 goals.

But the surgery on Bergeron's anterior cruciate ligament makes him a question mark. Yzerman said Bergeron has practiced since Thanksgiving and was cleared to play around Christmas.

Yzerman said the team reviewed reports from the doctor who performed the surgery, and Bergeron passed a physical given by Tampa Bay's doctors Tuesday in Norfolk.

Asked if Bergeron can play a significant role for the Lightning, Yzerman said, "Time will tell. He's missed a lot of hockey. … The two-way contract allows us to get him in shape, and if we do call him up, he's 100 percent."

DOWNIE RETURNS: RW Steve Downie played Tuesday against the Capitals after missing 13 games because of a high ankle sprain. Downie, who had been on a line with C Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis, played with C Dominic Moore and W Teddy Purcell. Coach Guy Boucher said before the game he would limit Downie's ice time. Downie played 11:59, 3:27 less than his average, with zero shots and one fight.

SMITH SKATES: G Mike Smith, out since Dec. 20 with a left-knee sprain, skated for the first time with full pads and took shots, though the workout, separate from his teammates, was controlled. Still, Smith said, "I felt like a goalie." There is no timetable for a return. Smith, who is wearing a knee brace, could practice Friday in Ottawa.

ODDS AND ENDS: The 1-0 overtime victory was the Lightning's first such win since Jan. 26, 2006, against the Devils. … St. Louis has a franchise-best eight regular-season OT goals. … Prospects Brett Connolly and Carter Ashton have three and two assists, respectively, through six games for Canada at the world junior championship in Buffalo, N.Y. Canada plays Russia for the gold medal today. … F Mattias Ritola and D Randy Jones (neck/shoulder) were scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning signs defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron 01/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 12:14am]

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