Downie hopes to play tonight, but lineup still in flux
Just when the Lightning thought the injury/illness bug had taken enough from them this season, it continues today.
Though RW Steve Downie (neck/back strain) skated this morning and said he's feeling better and hopes to play, coach Guy Boucher would only say there's "a chance" he's back. But equally as troubling is that C Dana Tyrell (sick) and C Mattias Ritola are also question marks. It'll be interesting to see who is on the ice for tonight's game against the Wild (5 p.m.) at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"We've got so many question marks, that I can't even tell you what the lineup is going to be," Boucher said. "The only thing I know is that (Dan) Ellis is going to be in net. The rest we'll have to see."
Apparently, Boucher said Tyrell was only able to eat a cracker Saturday on the off day, so is unsure if he'll be physically ready to go. And Ritola came in with some balance issues, which Boucher attributed to medication he is taking for an ear problem he's dealt with for a year.
"Since then he's fine 99.9 percent of the time," Boucher said. "But there's this off-day where he needs a little medication and today is one of them. We'll see if the medication works and he's okay to play. Right now, he can't even stand up, his balance is a little off."
As for Downie, who missed the last three games, he's anxious to get back out there. Downie didn't make the last road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh as a precaution as the Lightning tried to figure out whether the neck pain the wing was experiencing was related to his back injury, or whether it was a potential concussion. But Downie was "relieved" he passed a neuropsych test, ruling out concussion issues, though he admitted it was tough to watch the games on TV as the Lightning lost both.
"Watching the games on TV from my house was probably the worst feeling I've had this year," he said. "It's not fun."
Downie skated Sunday morning and said while he's not 100 percent there, he said the injuries won't prevent him from playing his typical physical game. "No restrictions," he said.
To pass the time while he was out, Downie grew a mustache, joking he was "bored."
"All the other guys had one, figured I may as well jump on the wagon," Downie said, smiling.
Other things from the morning skate: Boucher said Vinny Lecavalier's scheduled hand surgery Monday is to help ensure the captain is back in the 3-to-5 week time frame. "The reality is, if we didn't do anything, it'd be between six and eight weeks - that's two months," Boucher said. "That's a long time, especially during the toughest stretch of the year for us. By doing that it could be 3-5 (weeks) instead of 6-8. As you all know, him coming back could be the difference between us making the playoffs and not."....Boucher also seemed encouraged that wing Simon Gagne (neck) is making strides, having skated hard for two straight days. Though Gagne is back on the ice, he's still not yet cleared to hit yet in practice with the team.
-- JOE SMITH