NEW YORK — Rangers coach Tom Renney called for Lightning G Mike Smith to be suspended for his part in a late third-period brawl with New York agitator Aaron Voros on Thursday.
The fight with 41 seconds remaining in the game resulted in Smith receiving high-sticking and slashing penalties as well as a fighting major.
“You usually don’t get hurt fighting, but you might get hurt with a spear or slash to the back of the leg,” Renney said. “It was completely unprovoked, and I think Smith should be suspended.”
“My emotions got the better of me,” Smith said. “(Voros) was just the guy in front.”
Voros was in front of Smith the entire game, and the two continually jousted.
“If he’s worried about having his stick on me, then he’s not worried about stopping the puck,” Voros said. “Obviously, I’m in his head more than he’s in my head.”
Lightning coach Barry Melrose had no problem with Smith. “If the referees don’t protect you, you have to protect yourself,” he said. “ It’s Sing Sing rules out there in the third period.”
Niskala payroll maneuver: The Lightning assigned D Janne Niskala to AHL Norfolk and then suspended him, general manager Brian Lawton said.
It is a bookkeeping measure as Niskala, who will not report to the Admirals, negotiates a contract with a European team and the Lightning gets out from under his $600,000 contract.
“We didn’t have to suspend him,” Lawton said. “We could pay him and send him down there. But that wasn’t our first option.”
Niskala, 27, whom the Lightning acquired from the Flyers during the summer for a sixth-round draft pick, was unhappy with reduced playing time and, with a pregnant wife, requested a return to Europe. The Finn’s contract allows the move, which, when completed, will end Tampa Bay’s financial obligation, Lawton said.
Niskala’s agent, Craig Oster, said he is negotiating with “a number of teams.”
“Extremely positive,” Oster said of his client’s impressions of the Lightning. “The people there treated him very well. This was a mutual parting of the ways. He’s disappointed because he wanted to play in the NHL and for Tampa Bay, and felt he can. It just didn’t materialize for a host of reasons.”
Charity case: Colin Devine, 49, had the winning $4,300 bid for Smith’s Saw mask that was auctioned to benefit the Lightning Foundation. The Wall Street research analyst was presented the mask by owners Oren Koules and Mark Burg, co-producers of the Saw movie series. Olaf Kolzig’s mask is up for bids at collectsaw.com to benefit Athletes Against Autism.
Odds and ends: RW Radim Vrbata (groin), off injured reserve, played 8:55 with three shots on goal and his first hit of the season. … LW Ryan Malone will be featured Thursday on Sun Sports’ Inside the Lightning. … Fs Jason Ward, Ryan Craig and Matt Pettinger were scratched.