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Atherton, Smolenak Return to Johnstown

According to ECHL.com, the Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned rookie left wing Radek Smolenak and the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League have reassigned rookie defenseman P.J. Atherton to Johnstown.

Smolenak has 25 points (13g-12a) and 31 penalty minutes in 32 games with Johnstown and one assist and eight penalty minutes in 20 games with Springfield.

Atherton has 26 points (4g-22a) and 46 penalty minutes in 49 games with Johnstown and two points (1g-1a) and two penalty minutes in seven games with Springfield.

Lightning Want More Scorers on the Farm

In an article in today's St. Pete Times, Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster acknowledges that lack of firepower was a main reason the Springfield Falcons struggled as the Lightning's affiliate.

"We need to find some goal scorers," Feaster told the Times. "Even if they're not immediately going to be big-time goal scorers here they can be big-time goal scorers down there and give us that organizational depth."

Damian Cristodero, the article's author, suggests this may be a mult-year project. Head scout Jake Goertzen told the newspaper this year's draft is believed to be generally shallow. He said the greatest talent will be available in 2008.

Goertzen said the team would not pass up a stud at another position but agreed, "We must upgrade our skill and scoring."

The Lightning were in this position two years ago when they focused on addressing the need for skill and scoring at the 2005 draft, but ended up taking behemoth defenseman Vladimir Mihalik in the first round. The Lightning's next six picks were skilled players, and though at the time Feaster said, "Of our top four picks, we would've been happy taking any of them with our 30th overall pick," Mihalik made it three straight years Tampa Bay took a defenseman with their first pick.

HR Pilot: Admirals President Expects NHL Deal by End of Month

According to the Hampton Roads Pilot Online, Norfolk Admirals President Ken Young says the recent affiliation moves by the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers will not hinder his pursuit of a new NHL affiliate.

"There's a lot of interest," Young told the Pilot. "There's absolutely no danger of losing AHL hockey in Norfolk."

Young also told the Pilot that he expected to have a deal in place by the end of the month.

Norfolk will end its regular season on April 15 in Bridgeport. The first possible playoff date is April 17.

Of interest: Young makes his home in Tampa, Florida.

Sweden's Final Four Set

Andreas Holmqvist and #4 Linkopings have had the week off after having swept #7 seed Lulea out of the first round of the Elitserien playoffs. But, with a pair of game seven matchups completed today, the final four is finally set. Unfortunately, Linkopings will face #1 seed Farjestads in the second round of the Elitserien playoffs. The Elitserien semifinals begin on Wednesday.

Tampa Tribune: Feaster Releases Statement Concerning Affiliate

Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster has released a statement concerning the Lightning's search for a new AHL affiliate. The Tampa Tribune posted the following statement in a March 19 online article:

Quote:
"While we have worked extremely hard, and invested significant financial, human and other resources, to return winning hockey to Springfield our on-ice results the past three years have fallen well-short of everyone’s expectations.

"We are currently in the process of negotiating to secure a first-class AHL affiliate for the 2007-08 season and beyond, and we are confident that we will be successful in our quest. Once a new affiliation arrangement has been finalized and the time is appropriate we will make an announcement concerning our AHL future.

"We want our fans to know that we continue to place a high degree of importance on our development system and we will not waiver in that regard."

For the full Tampa Tribune story, please see Bolts, Springfield to Part Ways.

In related news, the AHL announced today that the league’s Board of Governors has unanimously approved approved the sale and relocation of the inactive AHL franchise owned by Gardens Hockey Inc., of Cincinnati, Ohio, to the Rockford MetroCentre of Rockford, Ill. The team, which will be known as the Rockford IceHogs, has also entered into a 10-year affiliation agreement with the Chicago Blackhawks and will serve as the NHL club’s top development team beginning in 2007-08. (AHL.com)

As rumored, this move, now official, opens the door for an NHL club such as Tampa Bay to enter into an affiliation agreement with Norfolk.

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