Rookie gets call in goal for Lightning

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

TAMPA -- A new goalie, a possible new ownership group and, hopefully, a new winning streak.

With all that going on, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Jay Feaster has plenty on his holiday-season plate these days.

With his Lightning owning a sub-par 14-17-3 record heading into tonight's meeting with the Maple Leafs at the St. Petes Times Forum, the always-accountable Feaster yesterday stepped up and said any criticism of his banged-up team should begin with him.

GM TAKES BLAME

"The responsibility starts with me," Feaster said. "We don't have the depth to sustain through all the injuries right now. The blame for that starts with me."

With key cogs such as Dan Boyle, Chris Gratton, Michel Ouellet and Ryan Craig all sidelined, the Lightning is paying for having so much of its salary cap tied up in The Big Three of Vincent Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards. With so much cash allotted to those star players, Feaster has left himself little wiggle room to augment the supporting cast.

One change in the lineup will feature rookie goalie Karri Ramo, who will start against the Leafs tonight. With incumbents Johan Holmqvist (3.02 goals-against average, .888 save percentage) and Marc Denis (4.05, .859) continuing to struggle, the Lightning hierarchy figures it is time to get a good look at its highly touted goaltending prospect.

"By no means should anyone look at this guy as being a saviour," Feaster said. "If he struggles, he doesn't stop being a prospect. This is not just one screen test.

"Even though our (other two) goalies are not playing with confidence right now, they are not being blamed here. We have a lot of issues above and beyond our goalies. When we win, we win as a team. When we lose, we lose as a team."

LIKE HIS 'SWAGGER'

Lightning officials like Ramo's "swagger," according to coach John Tortorella. They brought up the example of last spring when, after being called up for the playoffs, he could not understand why he wasn't the starter in the series against the New Jersey Devils.

"This is a great opportunity for me," said Ramo, who seems to have recovered from an ankle injury that hampered him with the Lightning's farm team in Norfolk.

Meanwhile, the process of selling the Lightning franchise might be gaining some legs.

Palace Sports & Entertainment, the body that owns the team, announced yesterday that it will negotiate exclusively with OK Hockey, LLC, an entity controlled by Hollywood TV and movie producer Oren Koules, hoping to move forward with a purchase agreement by late January.

"I am excited that we were able to take such a positive first step," said Koules, who met with Palace Sports & Entertainment officials in Detroit yesterday.

Former Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean is not part of the OK Hockey, LLC, group.


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