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Tampa Bay Lightning's left wing Gary Roberts to retire from NHL after this season

TAMPA — Gary Roberts said he will retire after this season. The Lightning left wing, in his 21st season and with 436 goals, just hopes he can get healthy to "finish on a good note."

"I don't think there's any doubt I'm gone after this season. I'm going to retire," Roberts, 42, said Thursday. "I'd like to come back and prove that I can play and hopefully stay healthy enough to finish the season and finish playing a stretch of games and at least have some success."

It has been a frustrating season for Roberts, who has missed 12 of 13 games with a left elbow injury he said is not responding to treatment and soon will be re-examined to determine what to do next.

Worse, it comes after a season in which he played just 38 games with the Penguins because of a broken leg and an ankle injury.

Roberts, who signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay, began this season as a fourth-line player under then-coach Barry Melrose, whom Roberts said "didn't think I can play." With few special teams duties, Roberts, generally, played 7-10 minutes. He has two goals, both on Nov. 10, and averages 10:24 of ice time.

"At 42 years old, that's a tough job to take on, especially after the years I've had," said Roberts, a three-time All-Star and a Stanley Cup winner in 1989 with the Flames.

He said he was hurt Nov. 18 against the Panthers.

"I still believe I can play," Roberts said. "It's just: Will my body allow me the opportunity to show that I can play?"

HALPERN RETURNS: C Jeff Halpern not only played his first game since May's reconstructive surgery on his right knee, he scored a goal, got 17:36 of ice time and, before the game, was given the A as an alternate captain. D Andrej Meszaros lost the A.

"Mez is a young guy. He's 23. He's got a lot of years," coach Rick Tocchet said of Meszaros. "But Jeff Halpern definitely deserves the A. He's the type of guy who does the little things."

JOKINEN HURTING: He's not on the injury report, but C Jussi Jokinen said he has been bothered by lower-body soreness. He did not use that as an excuse for zero goals in 15 games, but it probably hasn't helped.

"It's not nice to play when every stride hurts you," he said.

Jokinen said three days without a game made a difference.

"No pain," he said before the game. "It's a nice feeling."

ODDS AND ENDS: G Karri Ramo was up from AHL Norfolk to back up Mike Smith. Olie Kolzig has an upper-body injury, believed to be minor, sustained during Tuesday's practice. … C Zenon Konopka was re-assigned to Norfolk. … RW Ev­geny Artyukhin was scratched.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com

Tampa Bay Lightning's left wing Gary Roberts to retire from NHL after this season 12/18/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 19, 2008 11:06am]

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