Downie likely back tonight; Jones' recovery ahead of schedule
There's a good chance RW Steve Downie returns to the lineup tonight against the Hurricanes, giving the Lightning a much-needed boost with an addition of a top-six forward.
Downie, who had missed nine games with knee and high ankle problems on his right leg, skated - and looked good - in Friday's morning skate, and said afterwards he's ready to go. Coach Guy Boucher said it's a very good possibility he's back.
For Downie, it couldn't have come soon enough.
“I don’t like sitting out and I think everyone knows that,” Downie said. “It’s probably the toughest thing in hockey for me to sit out and watch the team go play hard teams, it’s painful. But hopefully it’s the best for my ankle and come down the stretch, I’ll be ready to go.
Downie said his ankle, which had also bothered him earlier this season, feels stronger and “more powerful.” He did a lot of work in the pool and on the treadmill and exercise bike, but said there’s no replacement for skating – and considering he just started practicing this week – coach Guy Boucher acknowledged he won’t be at his best and will have to manage his ice time.
“I’ve been out the last couple weeks so just keep it simple and play my game,’ Downie sadi. “I haven’t practiced very much, so I won’t be as sharp as I liked to be. But it comes down to doing the little things right and keeping it simple as much as possible.”
But just having Downie’s presence back will add a spark, both in his battles along the boards and how he compliments a line with Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis.
“He brings energy, he brings drive, physicality,” Boucher said. “And he makes that Stamkos and St. Louis line click a lot more. And that’s a lot.”
The Lightning should get back another top-six forward in Ryan Malone (mid body injury) next week, with Boucher saying he’s “perfect to go” but needs more work conditioning-wise.
MEDICAL MATTERS: The Lightning got encouraging news on D Randy Jones (high ankle sprain on left leg), with Boucher saying his recovery is a week ahead of schedule, meaning there's chance could be back before the playoffs. Jones’ original timetable was four-to-six weeks, bringing him back April 11, but he got on the ice Friday to skate.
*G Dwayne Roloson will be in net, with Boucher saying he hasn't decided yet who will play Saturday in Raleigh.