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Tampa Bay Lightning's Mattias Ritola hopes hearing aid limits episodes

TAMPA — Mattias Ritola was fitted with a hearing aid Thursday. It is the latest attempt to control his Meniere's disease, which flared before warmups of the Jan. 25 game with the Maple Leafs, its first appearance in more than a month.

"Every game, I feel good. I feel confident," the Lightning forward said Friday. "And then to have this going again, it's frustrating."

Ritola uses the hearing aid in his right ear. Deaf in his left because of childhood viruses, he said, his right ear sometimes needs help. Not hearing clearly causes stress, and Ritola said doctors have told him stress can cause the disease to erupt with dizziness and headaches.

"I stress a lot because I try to hear so much in the locker room, and it's kind of noises everywhere," said Ritola, scratched for three straight games and who takes medication. "Hopefully, this will take a lot of stress away and keep the symptoms gone."

The Lightning brass hopes so. Incidents such as the one before the Toronto game make planning a lineup difficult.

"He's got skill, and he's bringing grit," coach Guy Boucher said. "The issue is how do we get this guy to be available for any game?"

Especially as the Feb. 28 trade deadline approaches and GM Steve Yzerman assesses the roster.

"We have to think about it," Yzerman said of where Ritola fits. "He's a good player. He's a valuable player, and we want him to play. And it's hard on Mattias because he wants to play. It's just the unpredictably of it."

Ritola, 23, acquired in September off waivers and with two goals and six points in 24 games, said at least the attacks have slowed: "When I got here, I had, like, three attacks a week. It was awful. I could barely stand up. Lately, it's like a migraine, dizzy. They're not as big, so that's good.

So is the team's support.

"I feel like everybody is behind me," he said. "It's a great team."

STREAKS STOPPED: G Dwayne Roloson's scoreless streak ended at 133 minutes, 12 seconds when the Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom scored 9:09 into Friday's game. That also ended Roloson's scoreless streak against Washington at 139:22. "He played great against us the last two games," Capitals star Alex Ovechkin said of Roloson's consecutive shutouts. "He had unbelievable luck. He's a great goalie, but sometimes goalies have luck. And today luck was on our side."

NEW HIRES: The team announced Lightning founder Phil Esposito as vice president for corporate relations. Former captain Dave Andreychuk is vice president of fans, in charge of cultivating community ties.

"I feel real good about it," said Esposito, who will stay as a radio analyst at least through the season. "I want to help, and I think I can. The corporates are important. I know most of them. Maybe I can sell a couple of suites."

ODDS AND ENDS: W Ryan Malone (mid-body injury) was scratched for a fourth straight game. … The game was the first for the Capitals since Nov. 6, 2008, against the Hurricanes in which they faced a Southeast Division opponent with more points. … New Lightning jerseys are not for sale, but merchandise with the new blue and white colors and logo are at the main St. Pete Times Forum team store.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Mattias Ritola hopes hearing aid limits episodes 02/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 5, 2011 12:20am]

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