Simon Gagne still out as Tampa Bay Lightning faces formidable challenges against Bruins
The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without left wing Simon Gagne for a 15th game Monday against the Bruins, though it seems somewhat likely Gagne will play Wednesday against the Rangers.
"I don't want to say," Gagne said when asked if he was shooting for a Wednesday return. "If I said one day and I end up not playing, I might disappoint a lot of people. I would Disappoint my teammates. They have been pretty good with me right now. I'm trying to give them some positive things about the way I feel. They ask me every day when I'm going to play. If I say Wednesday and I don't, it's not something we need right now."
Gagne, 30, says he still has the muscle and nerve inflammation that has restricted blood flow and caused all the trouble. And while his vision problems have cleared, he said he still feels pressure in his head after strenuous workouts. Treatment includes chiropractic treatments to loosen up his neck.
"That's the reason I didn't go to Buffalo," Gagne said of Saturday's 2-1 win over the Sabres. It was an issue with that. We decided to get more testing and get some work done on that. It's better than it was three days ago, but we still have to make it feel a bit better. It's getting there."
Not having Gagne, or captain Vinny Lecavalier (knuckle), for that matter is a bit problematic against the Bruins who can now concentrate getting big defenseman Zdeno Chara on the ice against Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Coach Guy Boucher said he can try a few things to avoid that matchup, namely switching up lines.
"But the reality is if they want Chara against St. Louis and Stamkos, they're going to have Chara against St. Louis and Stamkos," Boucher said. "Guys change real quick. Our top guys have to play against their top guys. Those guys have to do the job once they get on the ice."
"He's one of the toughest players to play against in the league," Stamkos said, "and not because he's so strong but because he has such a long reach and is so smart on the ice, it's tough to get by him. Just try to keep the puck out of his corner, try to work the other side and chip pucks by him and utilize your speed."
Tampa Bay must also go against two of the top statistical goalies in the league. Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask lead the league with a combined 1.82 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. Thomas and Rask also are second and tied for third, respectively, in save percentage .954 for Thomas and .939 for Rask.
How does Tampa Bay deal with such solid goaltenders?
"First of all, your attitude," Boucher said. "If we're thinking we're going to play a brick wall, we're not going to score many goals. Both goaltenders are doing outstanding, and the reality is, if they work harder than you do around the net, then the goalie is going to have his game. If we work harder, we'll have a chance to score one or two."
Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected after his 29-saves against the Sabres, Mike Smith gets the start in net. ... Left wing Mattias Ritola is eligible to play after finishing his two-game suspension for a from-behind hit Wednesday on the Islanders' Matt Mouslon. But Boucher said he was not sure if Ritola would play as he was deciding between 11 and 12 forwards. ... Boucher said he might go with seven defensemen as two defensemen played injured against the Sabres. One, probably was Randy Jones, who has had a foot issue. The other might be Victor Hedman, who has had problems with both feet and a left shoulder injury sustained Wednesday when checked by former teammate Zenon Konopka. ... Stamkos was asked about getting back Gagne: "If he could come back in the next couple of games it would be a huge boost." He then morphed into talking about getting Gagne and Lecavalier back: "We proved we can work together and stick together and win without those guys, but when they're back it's going to be much more of a contribution." ... Speaking of Lecavalier, he had a light cast removed on Monday, a week after knuckle surgery, though he still is expected out at least another three weeks. ... And if you're interested, the Sarasota Area Sports Authority is having a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 7 at the Holiday Inn Lake wood Ranch. Dave Andreychuk will be there. Cost is $25 with proceeds going to the SASA college scholarship fund. For information, call (941) 923-6580. ... The Lightning will have a moment of silence before the Bruins game to honor former NHL coaching great Pat Burns, a Port Charlotte resident who was a regular at Lightning games and last week lost a fight with cancer.