Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier "very, very doubtful" tonight vs. the Stars
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said the swelling on the injured first knuckle of his right hand has gone way down, and he can even grip a stick. He also holds out some hope he will play tonight against the Stars. But coach Guy Boucher said Lecavalier is "very, very doubtful."
"We don't think it's something that's going to be long term. ... If it was the playoffs, he'd be playing right now," Boucher said.
No new tests were done over the weekend or Monday -- Lecavalier said an X-ray after he was hit Saturday by a slap shot from Florida defenseman Bryan McCabe was negative -- and Lecavalier said he came in to the St. Pete Times Forum for treatment Sunday and spent the whole day icing his knuckle. Still, when Lecavalier on Monday skated for a few minutes by himself after the team's regular morning skate, he said his grip on his stick was weak.
"Movement is probably the most important thing and then strength, seeing if you have the right strength to play," he said. "I just went out there a bit and twirled around a little bit. Obviously, it feels a little weak this morning, but you never know with eight hours. We'll see tonight how it feels."
If Lecavalier cannot play, and, again, that is how it seems, Simon Gagne will take Lecavalier's place as the rover on the power play. Ryan Malone will step into Gagne's spot in front and at the side of the net. The line combinations are more sketchy. Boucher said he will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, but it was unclear how Lecavalier's line, which includes Gagne and Malone, will be reconfigured. Perhaps it is just a matter of double-shifting Steven Stamkos with Dominic Moore and Nate Thompson rotating in as well.
No record for Stamkos: Just a point of clarification. Even if Stamkos had scored during Saturday's 6-0 loss to the Panthers, he would not have tied the team record of goals in eight consecutive games. Stamkos scored in the final four games of last season and the first three of this season, but the Lightning said, as per league mandate, it does not carry scoring streaks from one season to the next . So Brian Bradley's record of eight, for now, is safe.
Other stuff from the morning skate: Mike Smith will get the start in net. ... Not sure of the scratches as Boucher said he was still mulling options. ... It was a difficult game to make evaluations, but Boucher said he saw some good and bad in Mattias Ritola's Lightning debut on Saturday. "There's good moments and, obviously, moments when he wasn't in the right place, which I was suspecting," Boucher said. Ritola, one of five Lightning players who was minus-3, said the game was "really tough. It's your first game, and you want to have a good game, but that's the way hockey is. Some nights it's off, and that night it was off. We have to get back up, and the same for me. I have to get back up and have a good game." It sounded as if Ritola will play against Dallas. ... What did Boucher learn about the team's 2-1-0 road trip? "The only thing for sure is we can't have any letdowns. we're not a powerhouse. We've got guys working hard. We've got guys who pay the price, and we won some games because we gave it our all. The minute we're not going to give it our all, we're going to have the result we got last game. It's something you know, but until it really happens to you, you don't suspect how close the line is between what happened last game and other games that you win." ... The Stars who don't play again until Thursday at Florida, are sticking round Tampa until Wednesday, and former Lightning Brad Richards, who still has a house on Davis Islands, will be the tour guide. Golf and fishing outings are scheduled, the Stars center said.