Originally created 11/06/01

Ex-NHL goalie lined up



The Augusta Lynx are on the verge of landing a former NHL goalie as the replacement to injured netminder Judd Lambert.

Former Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Zac Bierk, who has played in 27 NHL games, will be assigned to the Lynx by the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes.

The 25-year-old Bierk, who made one NHL start last season with the Minnesota Wild and signed as a free agent with the Coyotes in June, is expected to join the Lynx on Tuesday.

Bierk has been sidelined since undergoing surgery in mid-September for a degenerative hip condition.

The Coyotes signed him this summer to add goaltending depth, but he failed a team physical during training camp and had surgery to remove part of the bone from the hip.

Bierk spent most of the 2000-01 season with Cleveland of the International Hockey League, going 24-18-5 with a 2.89 goals-against average.

In 27 NHL games with Tampa Bay and Minnesota the past four seasons, he is 5-10-2 with a 3.90 GAA.

"The operation was a complete success and he should be fine," Coyotes vice president of hockey operations Cliff Fletcher told Faceoff.com in late September.

With the loss of Lambert to a season-ending knee injury on Saturday, Lynx coach Jim Burton moved quickly to find a proven replacement.

Initial reports that Lambert suffered a torn ACL and MCL in Saturday's 4-1 loss at South Carolina were confirmed on Monday by Lynx team doctors. Lambert will undergo reconstructive knee surgery in the coming weeks and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

"It's a tough loss losing Judd," Burton said. "He seemed focused on having a good year, and he's going to be tough to replace."

"We think we've found a goalie with considerable experience to step in," Burton added. "But I won't know for sure until (Tuesday)."

The acquisition of Bierk was made possible thanks to Burton's longtime relationship with the legendary Wayne Gretzky - the Coyotes' managing partner in charge of hockey operations. Burton grew up with Gretzky in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.

With Augusta's sudden need for a goalie and the Coyotes' need to find Bierk a place to play regularly, the assignment was a perfect fit.

Though pleased with the performance of backup Cris Classen - 2-2-0 with a 2.71 GAA in four games this season - Burton made the decision to go after a proven No. 1 netminder to step in and help a Lynx club that has underachieved so far this season.

At one point, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Bierk was tabbed as the Lightning's goaltending star of the future,

Selected in the ninth round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Tampa Bay, Bierk never panned out with the Lightning, and was taken by Minnesota in the NHL expansion draft in June 2000.

In his only start for the Wild last season, Bierk stopped 21 of 27 shots in a 6-2 loss to Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils on March 8.

Since his hip surgery in September, Bierk has been undergoing rehab in Phoenix with Coyotes medical staff. He will continue his rehab in Augusta and likely is about a week or so away from being ready to resume playing.

Bierk has a one-year deal with the Coyotes with a team option for a second season.