Downie nearing his return; Smaby in for Jones tonight
Wing Steve Downie is getting closer to a return to the Lightning lineup.
Downie, who suffered a high right ankle sprain Dec. 2 against Boston, has skated four times in the past couple weeks, though not with the team. And coach Guy Boucher said Downie could start practicing hard – and maybe playing in a game – in a week or so.
“I’m starting to get hope now,” Downie said. “It’s getting more exciting now as it’s feeling better and better.”
Downie said he still wears a walking boot, but it’s mostly precautionary, as he’s not dealing with as much pain. “You have bad days, you have good days,” he said.
*In other news from today: Boucher said D Randy Jones (upper body) will not play tonight, meaning Matt Smaby will get back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 22. Having played in just 14 games this season due to injuries, or being a healthy scratch, Smaby is excited to get back in there, saying the layoffs between games making practice that much more important.
"It's more of a drain mentally than physicallly, just staying in it," Smaby said. "But it's a great group of guys, and we have a really good team. And any way I can contribute I'm happy. Being in tonight is just another way to do it."
*Boucher continued to praise the line of Vinny Lecavalier-Simon Gagne-Sean Bergenheim, saying it's been the team's best line in the past four or five games. He also said, it makes it like they have two first lines. While much has been said about Lecavalier and Gagne's impact since they returned, Boucher pointed out how well Bergenheim has been playing, doing a lot of things to create scoring chances (and stop those by other teams).
*Also, a familiar face for Lightning fans, ex-GM Jay Feaster is now the acting GM for the Calgary Flames, taking over after Darryl Sutter resigned.
-- JOE SMITH