Tampa Bay Lightning will soon get a lift when Steve Downie and Ryan Malone return from injuries
For the first time since taking a knee -to-knee hit from Boston's Shawn Thornton, Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Steve Downie skated with his teammates, though he wore a red jersey. He joined red-shirted wing Ryan Malone, who has been working out with the team for about a week or so.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher can't wait to get them back in the lineup. He said Downie, out eight games with knee and high ankle problems on his right leg, could be ready by Friday against the Hurricanes. He said Malone, out 17 games with a mid-body injury, might be ready a a week after that.
The additions would be a huge boost. Not only because both players add some grit and a scoring touch, but because it will take some of the time-on-ice pressure off some other players, particularly Marty St. Louis, who averages 21:10 of ice time. and Steven Stamkos, who is at 20:25. Both played 24 minutes in Thursday's overtime game with the Canadiens. Even Dominic Moore and Nate Thompson played 20 Saturday against the Senators, and Vinny Lecavalier played more than 21:23, almost three minutes more than his average.
Boucher said before the season he did not want his forwards averaging 20 min. Two reasons. He wants them to have energy late and be able to play his high-tempo style, and he doesn't want his players wearing down during the playoffs.
Boucher also said fatigue played a factor in Saturday's overtime loss to the Senators in which Ottawa scored two third-period goals in the final eight minutes to tie the score. Boucher said it had nothing to do with guys wearing down after a long season playing his high-intensity system. It is how his players manage their time on ice.
Boucher wants player to hold shifts to no more than 40 seconds. Against the Senators, St. Louis and Stamkos averaged 53 seconds. Lecavalier was at 49.
Safe to say some of the pressure the players are feeling to stay on the ice might be relieved when Downie and Malone get back.
In other injury news, Boucher said left wing Simon Gagne, who stayed in Montreal after Thursday's game with the Canadiens for follow-up treatment on the neck injury that kept him out of 18 games in October and November, might be available for Tuesday night's game with the Islanders. It still is a hope, but sounds like Friday against the Hurricanes is for-sure if Gagne, with two goals and six points in his past three games, can't make it against New York.