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Injuries, illness puts Lightning lineup up in air; Dan Boyle calls previous owners "poison"



The Tampa Bay Lightning's injury/illness problems just keep mounting; so much so, coach Guy Boucher said after Saturday's morning skate in San Jose that he does not yet know his lineup.

New additions to the list include illnesses to goaltender Dan Ellis and forward Nate Thompson and one other player Boucher declined to name. Boucher also said he was not sure about forward Steve Downie (sore back).

As for others who are battling hurts: left wing Marty St. Louis (left big toe contusion) will play, defenseman Victor Hedman (right foot contusion) appears as if he will play, defenseman Matt Smaby (right foot sprain) might be able to play, center Dominic Moore (groin) likely will get one more game to recover, left wing Mattias Ritola (illness) said he is fine, left wing Sean Bergenheim (left foot contusion) should play, left wing Simon Gagne (neck) will miss his seventh game.

Boucher even jokingly asked the local Tampa media if we wanted to make the lineup.

Whatever he comes up with, that players are not 100 percent or might have to assume different responsibilities, adds some pressure.

"Everybody has got their role," Boucher said. "There's nobody that has no role. We like teams within teams, power play, penalty kill, four-on-four, everybody knows what their job is. But when somebody is taken out of those jobs it changes the chemistry and efficiency of what we want to do. We have some work to do on video before the game starts to tell some guys what they're going to do, to make sure we balance it out so that the guys taking someone else's role have some sort of idea to make it work."

Boyle calls former owners "poison": Former Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle, in his third season with the Sharks, said he is thrilled for the Lightning organization, and the players there he still calls friends, that the team seems to be on the right track. He did not hesitate to call former owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie "poison."

You recall that after signing Boyle to a six-year contract extension in February 2008, the new owners traded Boyle on July 4, and threatened to put him on waivers and send him to the minors if he did not waive his no-trade clause.

"They got rid of the poison up top, and that's what they were," Boyle said of Koules and Barrie. "Those guys were poison. So, I'm thrilled. I'm happy for the city. I still have a place back there and my folks are down there all the time. I couldn't be happier for the organization and the people who are still back there that they've turned it around."

Boyle said he doesn't stay in touch with Vinny Lecavalier or Marty St. Louis as much as he should. "That's not anything personal," he said. "I'm a poor communicator when it comes to that."

Still, Boyle, a major part of the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup team, said he always will have a soft spot for the Tampa Bay area and the Lightning.

"The only problem I had with Tampa was the two owners," Boyle said. "That's it. Other than that, I won a Cup there, I still have a place there. I'll always be a part of that city and that team. I'm just so happy that those guys (Koules and Barrie ) are gone. They were poison."

Other stuff from the morning skate: Sharks captain Joe Thornton appealed his two-game suspension for a hit to the head Thursday and was denied, so he will not play tonight. ... Sharks goalie Antero Niittymaki, said he believes he was "close" to signing back with Tampa, but could not pinpoint why it didn't happen. "You should ask Mr. Yzerman," he said. No need. Niittymaki got $2 million from the Sharks in a one-year deal, and Tampa Bay was able to sign Ellis for $1.5 million a year for two years. ... Niittymaki, who will play tonight, has flourished in San Jose with a 4-1-1 record with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. ... So much for the Lightning's high-flying offense. The team has five goals in its past three games. One reason: the power play is bad right now at 2-for-19 in its past five games. Too fancy at the blue line, the players and coaches say, which makes setting up awfully difficult. On the other hand, the penalty kill is second in the league at 90.4 percent and is 16 of 17 in its past five games. "Everyone is on the same page," Thompson said. "Your goalie has to be your best penalty killer first off. Then guys have to be willing to block shots and get in passing lanes, going that extra mile for whatever it may be. Everyone is doing that and everyone is chipping in right now." ... Too bad for Hedman, who missed Thursday's game in Los Angeles and missed a chance for his aunt Asa and uncle Thomas to see him play in the NHL for the first time. The couple traveled to the U.S. west coast on business and extended its stay a day to see the game against the Kings. But Hedman, with a right-foot injury, could not play. "Big time," Hedman said when asked if he was disappointed. "I wanted to play so bad, that's why I tried in warm-ups to try it. Too bad it didn't work out. It would have been nice to see me, but they had a blast seeing everything going on around the game." ... The Lightning had Ryan Malone back on the first power play unit after an experiment with Teddy Purcell did not yield much in Thursday's game. ... Boucher said he was proud of Downie for turning away from much of the provocation he faced against the Kings.

[Last modified: Monday, December 6, 2010 12:15am]


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