Ranger cleared to play
Good news out of Lightning practice today as defenseman Paul Ranger was cleared to play in Thursday's game against the Islanders at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I can't wait to get back in there," Ranger said.
Ranger, 24, did not play in any exhibition games this season and has been rehabbing April arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder that repaired a torn labrum. He traveled to Birmingham, Ala., on Monday to visit Dr. James Andrews, who did the surgery. Ranger's addition should help Tampa Bay's lagging transition game and it should alleviate some of the pressure on Andrej Meszaros and Matt Carle, both of whom are averaging more than 27 minutes of ice time.
Ranger said he is not worried about contact.
"I tested it in practice (Tuesday) with some hits in the corners," he said. "It feels really comfortable. I feel ready to go."
Don't expect Ranger to play 25 minutes, which coach Barry Melrose said is the long-term plan. Perhaps 15 to 20, depending on how the game goes, Melrose said. And let's give him some time to re-adjust to the speed of the game.
The real question is, who will sit out against New York? Melrose said he hasn't decided yet. But by a process of elimination, we can make a guess.
Figure Meszaros, Carle, Jamie Heward, Lukas Krajicek and Ranger are in. Melrose has praised Mike Lundin as the team's best defenseman the past two games. Does that leave Janne Niskala outside looking in? We'll see.