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Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer

Damian Cristodero

Damian Cristodero began covering the Lightning for the Tampa Bay Times since 2000. Before that he was the Times' national auto racing reporter, and he also spent a season and a half helping to cover the Rays. His passion, though, is the NHL, and he has covered several Stanley Cup finals and All-Star Games, as well as the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Cristodero grew up on Long Island and worked for Newsday for six years before coming to Florida in 1987. He was the Gannett News Service's Miami-based sportswriter from 1990 to 1994. He joined the Times in 1997. He left the paper in 2014 to relocate to Washington, D.C.

  1. Rays fall to Indians

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon says he is as cognizant of the future during a season as he is of the present.

    In a 162-game season, keeping players fresh is paramount. But that has been tough of late with a bullpen that has been forced to work extra hard because the starting rotation is not eating up enough innings.

    "They are lambasted, I'm telling you, right now," Maddon said....

    Brandon Gomes reacts after allowing a single to Yan Gomes, the first batter he faces, that puts the Indians up 3-2 in the seventh inning.
  2. Rays: Maddon's water woes; Loney talks to kids

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Indians

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports 1; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tickets: $24-$275, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster,, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within five hours of game time.

    Promotion: DJ Kitty Plush hat to first 20,000 fans.

    Probable pitchers...

  3. Rays' Alex Cobb's simulated game goes well

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays RHP Alex Cobb took what he said was a "huge" step in his recovery from a strained left oblique by throwing 49 crisp pitches, breaking balls included, in a three-inning simulated game Friday.

    "I felt good," Cobb said, adding his biggest concern was his mechanics and not the injury, which no longer is painful.

    "I think that's a good sign on its own," he said. "It's out of my mind. I'm trying to work on baseball stuff instead of being cautious and trying to heal."...

    Alex Cobb hopes to return by the end of the month.
  4. Glut of goaltenders gives Lightning options

    Lightning Strikes

    Did you know the Lightning never has developed a No. 1 goaltender?

    It has tried. From the team's first draft in 1992 to 2009, Tampa Bay selected 18 goalies, including Riku Helenius 15th overall in 2006.

    From that group, only eight played a combined 109 games for the Lightning: 48 by Karri Ramo and one by Helenius, whose contract this season was terminated.

    This is noteworthy because Tampa Bay, with the signing last week of uberprospect Andrei Vasilevskiy, has perhaps its best chance at developing a No. 1....

  5. Vasilevskii deal gives Lightning plenty to consider


    The signing of Andrei Vasilevskii to a three-year, entry-level deal was good news for the Lightning, which coveted its top goalie prospect since selecting him 19th overall in the 2012 draft.

    Where will Vasilevskii play next season? The first thought would be AHL Syracuse. But general manager Steve Yzerman would not commit.

    “I’ll kind of hold off predicting or thinking where he’s going to play or how much he’s going to play as of yet,” he said. “We’ve got to sort out our goaltending situation, make some decisions.”...

  6. Goalie prospect Andrei Vasilevskii signs 3-year deal


    The Lightning signed top goaltending prospect Andrei Vasilevskii to a three-year, entry level deal. Vasilevskii, 19, was drafted 19th overall in 2012. He was 14-8 with three shutouts in 28 games this season for Ufa of the KHL with a 2.21 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

    And just in case you are wondering, the player is on, if memory serves, the third different spelling of his name....

  7. Lightning coach Jon Cooper a Jack Adams Award finalist


    Jon Cooper, who led the Lightning to 101 points (46-27-9) and a second place finish in the Atlantic Division was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

    The award is given by a vote of NHL broadcasters.

    Detroit's Mike Babcock and Colorado's Patrick Roy, the favorite, also are finalists. The award will be presented June 24 in Las Vegas at the NHL Awards show....

    Jon Cooper led the Lightning to 101 points (46-27-9) and a second place finish in the Atlantic Division.
  8. Ryan Malone's Lightning situation murky

    Lightning Strikes

    Ryan Malone's legal situation is crystal clear.

    The Lightning left wing was arrested April 12 in Tampa and charged with cocaine possession (police say they found 1.3 grams in his back pocket) and DUI (police say he had Breathalyzer blood-alcohol readings of 0.112 and 0.116, well above the 0.08 at which someone legally is considered impaired in Florida). The drug charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail, the DUI charge six months....

  9. Sounds as if Vasilevskiy is coming to North America (updated)


    Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman repeatedly has said he was committed to signing goaltending prospect Andrey Vasilevskiy as soon as his KHL contract was done.

    Well, one day after that contract with Ufa expired, a report on the Russian web site, said Vasilevskiy has decided to come to North America. There were reports Ufa dangled a contract extension to get perhaps one more season out of its No. 1 goalie....

    Highly regarded Andrey Vasilevskiy, 6 feet 3, 204 pounds, said when he was drafted 19th overall in 2012 that his goal was to play in North America.
  10. Malone pleads not guilty to cocaine, DUI charges


    Lightning left wing Ryan Malone has pleaded not guilty to DUI and cocaine possession charges stemming from an April 12 arrest in Tampa. That case is ongoing, but on Wednesday the state in Hillsborough County court dismissed a charge of driving with a suspended license connected to an April 8 traffic stop, also in Tampa.

    Malone was not in court but represented by Tampa attorney Wes Trombley. Malone, 34, is being evaluated by a substance abuse and behavioral health program run jointly by the league and players association. No trial date has been set for the cocaine and DUI charges that could bring maximum prison time of five years and six months, respectively....

    Lightning left wing Ryan Malone has pleaded not guilty to DUI and cocaine possession charges stemming from an April 12 arrest in Tampa.
  11. Ben Bishop has successful wrist surgery


    Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop on Tuesday underwent what the team said was "successful" wrist surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Rehab is expected to be three to four months, and Bishop, a Vezina Trophy finalist, is expected to be ready for training camp.

    The procedure was done by orthopedist Thomas Graham, who previously operated on then-Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier.

    Bishop, 27, who wet team records this season with 37 wins,  a 2.23 goals-against average and .924 save percentage sustained a ligament injury on Jan. 5 during warmups at Edmonton. He continued to play until dislocating his left elbow April 8 against the Maple Leafs....

    Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop on Tuesday underwent what the team said was "successful" wrist surgery.
  12. Lightning season in review

    Lightning Strikes

    For Lightning rookie center Tyler Johnson, the 2013-14 season was unique.

    "I don't know if I can ever say I've been through a team that had so much adversity," he said.

    • Steven Stamkos' broken right tibia cost him 45 games.

    • At one point, nine players were out with various hurts.

    • Marty St. Louis originally was left off Canada's Olympic team, which sparked such bitter feelings in the right wing against Tampa Bay general manager and Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, it began two months of drama that ended with St. Louis forcing a trade to the Rangers for Ryan Callahan....

  13. Lightning's Ben Bishop a Vezina Trophy finalist


    Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the league's top goaltender as voted on by the league's general managers. Bishop established team records with 37 wins, a 2.23 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He is the Lightning's first Vezina nominee since Daren Puppa in 1996.

    Here is the announcement from the league:

    Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning,  Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado  Avalanche are the three finalists for the 2013-14 Vezina Trophy, which is  awarded “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position,” the National Hockey League announced today....

  14. Lightning's new normal: making playoffs

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — If nothing else Thursday, in his final meeting with his players before they scattered for the summer, Lightning coach Jon Cooper wanted to make sure the organization's new "minimum standard" for success was implanted in their heads.

    "The playoffs are the norm now, and how far are we going to advance in the playoffs," Cooper said was the message. "That is where our attitude has to be."...

    Wing B.J. Crombeen heads down the hall in the Lightning locker area as players do exit interviews and pack up their gear for the season at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
  15. Lightning's Ben Bishop to have surgery on wrist

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ben Bishop, who since January played with a sore right wrist, will have surgery next week at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to repair a torn ligament.

    The Lightning goaltender will be in a cast six weeks and faces a total rehabilitation time of three to four months. He said he is confident he will be ready for training camp. "It was a pain … all year," Bishop said Thursday....

    Ben Bishop, who since January played with a sore right wrist, will have surgery next week at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to repair a torn ligament.