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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Lightning’s Malone arrested on cocaine charge

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone was arrested early Saturday morning and faces charges of possession of cocaine and driving under the influence, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Malone, 34, was arrested at 3:23 a.m. at Platt Street and Rome Avenue in Tampa, the HCSO arrest report said.

A Tampa police officer stopped Malone after seeing his 2014 Chevrolet Suburban make a left turn from a center lane of South Armenia Avenue onto Platt Street and then strike the curb at South Howard Avenue, police said.

When Malone exited the vehicle, the officer smelled alcohol on his breath, police said. Because Malone refused to take a field sobriety test, he was subsequently arrested for driving under the influence, police said.

During the arrest, officers found 1.3 grams of cocaine in Malone’s back pocket, police said.

Malone submitted to a breath test during booking, which showed his blood alcohol level at .112 and .116, over the legal limit of .08, police said.

“We are aware of the situation concerning Ryan Malone this morning,” Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement issued by the team. “Ryan will not travel with the team to Washington today but beyond that we cannot comment at this time.”

The Lightning finish the regular season Sunday at Washington. The team will play Montreal in the first round of the NHL playoffs, which begin next week. A victory at Washington would secure home-ice advantage for that first-round playoff series.

“Under the terms of the collectively bargained joint NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, Mr. Malone is subject to mandatory evaluation and, if deemed necessary by the Program Doctors, treatment pursuant to the terms of that Program,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement issued by the league. “His future playing status, both in the near term and during the playoffs, will be determined in accordance the terms of our SABH Program.”

According to Hillsborough County Clerk of Court records, Malone was charged Tuesday with driving with a suspended license, which is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable, if convicted, by up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. He is scheduled to appear for arraignment on the charge in Hillsborough County court on April 30.

In recent months he also has been cited for traffic violations including failing to pay tolls, running a red light and not having proof of insurance, according to county clerk of court records.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said the team was not aware of any issues involving Malone in recent days, but will be there to offer whatever sort of support Malone requires.

“When you’re not dealing with stuff related to sports, it kind of takes on something that’s on a whole new level and it kind of puts the game into perspective a little bit,’’ Stamkos said. “This is near and dear to our hearts as a friend of Ryan’s and we want to be there to support him. We’re not going to speculate on it, but if he does need a hand or if he does need somebody to talk to or somebody to help, the guys are going to be there and he’s going to get that. But it is a tough situation for him to be in right now and we are all thinking about him.’’

Malone is in his sixth year with the Lightning since signing a seven-year, $31.5 million contract with Tampa Bay before the 2008-09 season after being acquired from Pittsburgh. In 342 games with the Lightning Malone has 92 goals and 201 points but has been slowed by injuries. He was limited to 24 games in last year’s lockout-shortened 48-game season and missed nearly two months this season with a fracture in his ankle suffered Nov. 22.

After starting out the season on the Lightning’s top line, playing with Stamkos, Malone has been a frequent healthy scratch recently and when he has played, it’s been on the fourth line.

Malone’s last goal came on Jan. 11 when he scored twice in Philadelphia and he has just four assists in the past 28 games.

With the Lightning set to open the playoffs next week against Montreal, Stamkos said this situation will not be a distraction to the team.

“We’ve dealt with a lot of things as a team this year and this is obviously something that is a little different than what we’ve had to deal with in the past,’’ Stamkos said. “But we are all professionals here, we have been pretty good at dealing with different situations this year and I’m sure we will be able to deal with this as a team and support Ryan. I know with the timing heading into the playoffs but I think our team is going to be okay and focus on the task at hand.’’

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