Downie, out 3-4 weeks: "I didn't think it was that serious."
Right wing Steve Downie knew something was wrong when his right foot rolled back in an awkward way during a forecheck in the third period of Thursday's game at Boston.
But he didn't anticipate it'd be this bad. Downie is out 3-to-4 weeks with a high ankle sprain, an injury that coach Guy Boucher acknowledges can linger for longer than you anticipate.
"I didn't think it was that serious," Downie said. "I played another half of the period. ..It's definitely frustrating. We've got a pretty big road trip coming up, and I'll be at home."
Boucher said Simon Gagne will take Downie's spot on the top line with Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. It'll certainly give the line a different look, minus the grit and physical play of Downie, but Gagne - a two-time 40-goal scorer - brings some more offensive skill to an already potent combo.
As for Downie, the Lightning just has to hope for the best for a speedy recovery of a tough injury.
"Those are hell," Boucher said of high ankle sprains. "They usually last a while if they ever go away. You think you're okay, and then you start skating, honestly those are one of the worst things, besides rips in muscles. They last longer sometimes than fractures. Hopefully we'll cross our fingers and he's got a more minor one than we think, but it's not looking very good."
Other pre-game news and notes:
*Boucher said recently-recalled forward Johan Harju and C Mattias Ritola will get some time on the second power play unit, replacing Downie, because he wants to keep from wearing out key penalty killers Sean Bergenheim and Dominic Moore.
"We’ve found that our guys are tired on it and PK is a fraction of a second," Boucher said. "And if you’re just a little late or just a little tired, you're cooked. So guys like Moore and Bergenheim, they need to have energy to play that PK. So hopefully Ritola and Harju are good enough to get that power play going so we can release some pressure on those guys for the penalty kill."
*It's obviously been frustrating for Boucher that he hasn't had his top six forwards in tact since Oct. 21, and he acknowledged it's been tough to manage the minutes of St. Louis and Stamkos, who he says are tired. A couple things play into this, as both St. Louis and Stamkos get a lot of their ice time on the power play, and Boucher says he simply needs them on the ice when the team falls behind.
"It's hard to manage," Boucher said. "Because obviously when you're trailing a lot, almost every game we've been trailing for a long time here, so when you're trailing you need those guys to score. If we can take a lead then I can spread the ice time a bit easier. But when you trail, you need them out there. They need to score, so it's tough to manage it."
*Captain Vinny Lecavalier continues to make progress in returning from hand surgery, saying he's now able to grip a stick and do some puckhandling. He's still not to the point of being able to shoot, but he's in the process of strengthening the hand, and he's on schedule for return.
-- JOE SMITH