Malone and Lundin placed on IR; Thompson could return Tuesday
The Lightning placed D Mike Lundin (abdomen) and wing Ryan Malone (abdomen) on injured reserve Saturday, giving them some roster flexibility with the two players expected to be out for weeks.
But coach Guy Boucher said they hope C Nate Thompson could return as early as Tuesday against the Flyers. Thompson (head) has been held out since getting hurt in Sunday’s game against the Blues, but is encouraged with how he’s feeling, and said they are just holding him out as a precaution. He said he hasn’t been diagnosed him with a concussion.
Thompson, who has been one of the team’s best players this season, said he got some off-ice workouts in Friday and hopes to do some more tonight. Boucher said Thompson has to do really well today and Sunday for them to even consider bringing him back Tuesday.
“Everyday I feel like I’m getting better,” Thompson said. “So it’s a positive.”
*The good news with Malone’s abdominal-area injury is that it doesn’t look like it will require surgery, meaning it’s more likely a strain than a tear. But the bad news is that Boucher said he’s still expected to be out 6-8 weeks, which means they’ll be missing a top-six forward until the playoffs.
Malone’s presence in front of the net, with both his size (6-foot-4, 219 pounds) and skills, will be extremely difficult to replace.
“You can for a little bit, two weeks or the time he missed, but now if it’s that long, it’s going to be hard,” said wing Simon Gagne. “You can not really replace a guy like that. A lot of guys will have to try to play a little bit of the same style he’s doing, but you cannot replace what he’s bringing to the team. Definitely some guys will have to play a little bit more physical and I think Bugsy was bringing that aspect, to be that guy making some big hits once and a while. Other guys are going to have to do that once and a while.”
Said Boucher: "You can't replace that. He's a top notch player. You can't replace a top-notch player. I think everybody has got to play some of his assets and some of his qualities, whether it's power play or five on five. You look at Pittsburgh, you can't replace Crosby and Malkin, you just have to have everybody workign extremely hard to find other ways to win the game than the normal way you're doing it."
*Couch Guy Boucher said recently called-up LW Johan Harju will play on the fourth line, both center and wing, and get some power play opportunities. Boucher has received some good reports on Harju progressing with Norfolk (he was an All-Star), and said he will “get his chance” with all the injuries the team is facing.
Harju is excited for another opportunity, saying he's more comfortable with the North American game now than his previous call-ups, and confident in his game. He worked on his defensive positioning and play in Norfolk, but he'll still look to score, as Boucher says he's got a "tremendous shot."
Though this year has been a roller-coaster for Harju -- getting called up for the fourth time - he downplayed a newspaper report out of Sweden last month that he was unhappy playing here and quoted him as saying he planned to “go home” after this season.
“It wasn’t really true,” Harju said. “A couple of guys from my hometown in Sweden (were) working for a newspaper and I talked to them and they understood me wrong, so that was the big thing and it was in the newspaper. I have a fun time here and love to play here.”
MISCELLANY: G Dwayne Roloson will be in net tonight, "A focused Roloson," Boucher points out. Boucher also said that wing Steve Downie has lost some focus as of late, and the two had a very good talk about it, how he needs to have that if he wants to contribute on the first line.
"He's still not totally focused like I would want him to be and eventually he will," Boucher said. "He's made giant leaps but if you want to play on the first line, you've got to be totally focused on what you need to do for that line, rather than what you need to do sometimes for yourself to get back at some guys that have gone after you or after somebody else on our team."
-- JOE SMITH