Victor Hedman one of four injured players returning to action for the Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning got some good news when coach Guy Boucher announced that four of the nine players who have been out because of injury would play in a critical game against the Capitals tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Defenseman Victor Hedman (concussion), and forwards Ryan Shannon (knee), J.T. Wyman (pinkie) and Tom Pyatt (leg) all were scheduled to play.
The infusion of bodies, plus the call-up from AHL Norfolk of Pierre-Cedric Labrie gives Tampa Bay 12 healthy forwards ands even healthy defensemen. Boucher said he still must decide whether to play with 12 forwards and six defensemen or 11 and 7.
The team had also hoped to get back left wing Ryan Malone (upper body) and defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron (back), but neither is ready, Boucher said, though he confirmed Bergeron is at least making progress. Malone, he said, was getting further tests.
"We've still got some important guys missing but at least it's not nine," Boucher said.
Hedman, who had missed 13 games with post-concussion syndrome, is the biggest name returning. Hedman averages 22:28 of ice time, but Boucher said his minutes likely will be limited in his first game back.
"It's more exciting stepping back on the ice and feeling the crowd behind you and playing the sport that you love to play," Hedman said. "It's a little bit nerves but it's more exciting getting back to the games. That's what I love to do. It's just going to be a lot of fun."
The Lightning, 12th in the Eastern Conference, are nine points behind the first-place Capitals in the Southeast Division. A win cuts the margin to seven. A loss makes the margin 11.
Other stuff from the morning skate: Because of the death of his daughter, Carrie, in Germany, Phil Esposito will not call the Lightning's next four home games on the radio, team spokesman Bill Wickett said. ... As expected, Mathieu Garon will get the start in net for Tampa Bay. ... Tomas Vokoun is expected to start for the Capitals. ... The power play is still struggling and is on a 5-for-54 streak, but Boucher said he might have found a good tweak with either defensemen Bruno Gervais or Brendan Mikkelson at the blue line on both units. "They move quick, they keep it simple and they have accurate shots on net," Boucher said. ... Funny stuff from Boucher and Steven Stamkos about the player's winning three-for-three effort in the shootout competition at the All-Star Weekend. Stamkos, as you might know, is 4-for-24 in his career in NHL shootout attempts and on a 0-for-10 streak, including last season. "I didn't expect to go three-for-three and I made a joke about that after," Stamkos said of the TV interview he did in which he said he hoped Boucher had been watching. "But even things like that, knowing I did that in an all-star game in a skills competition, knowing that I did score three in a row, can give you confidence the next time you go." Added Boucher: "I guess he's putting pressure on me to get him back out there. I'm sure he wants to get one to relieve himself of whatever jinx he's under." ... With the Capitals calling up tough guy Joel Rechlicz from AHL Hershey (184 penalty minutes in 27 games) there was talk of a possible throwdown with either Tampa Bay's Steve Downie or Labrie. "It's not all about fights," Labrie said. "It's about the hockey."