Malone, scratched tonight, says no excuse for poor play
Lightning left wing Ryan Malone is scratched from tonight's game with the Maple Leafs after two games he classified as not good. The question is whether Malone is sitting solely because of poor play or if he still is not fully recovered from a left shoulder injury that cost him nine games from March 20-April 7.
Malone said there are no excuses.
"I haven't played very well, Malone said. "That could be a good reason, too."
Malone gaffs accounted for opponent goals in Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens and Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes. But coach Jon Cooper certainly made it sound as if Malone still has lingering issues with his left shoulder, injured March 18 by a technically legal but unnecessary hit from Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo.
"He's been hurt and, did he come back maybe too soon to get in, a new coach a new era? He probably did," Cooper said. "I have to give him a lot of credit for that. I feel bad. The kid has just been battling through injuries."
That said, Cooper added, "I've watched him go in spurts. He's had some shifts where I thought he was asleep, and he's had some shifts where I thought he was the best player on the ice. So, now it's just a matter of getting him back into, obviously, sustaining that to where he's back to being a big power forward."
Malone, 33, has been injury-plagued during his five years with the Lightning and has not played more than 70 games in a season. He missed 13 games earlier this season after he was injured during a pregame soccer warm-up. He has five goals, seven points and 22 penalty minutes in 23 games.
His shoulder, though, is the question now.
"It's good. I still don't think it's 100 percent," he said, and added about perhaps coming back too early, "I can't say that. When I came back we were still going to try to get into the playoffs. That was the goal, so you come back to help out any way you can. Things just snowballed for myself. You lose some confidence and end up becoming a player you don't want to be."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Ben Bishop gets the start in net tonight against the Maple Leafs. Anders Lindback likely plays Wednesday at Boston. ... How the Lightning will use Mathieu Roy is still unclear. The defenseman was signed on Tuesday to a one-way contract for the rest of the season. The beliefe was he would be brought in so defenseman Radko Gudas and wing Richard Panik could be sent to AHL Syracuse for the playoffs. But Cooper's explanation left that muddy as well. "It's a little depending on how we're going to move forward with the young guys," he said. But Cooper also said the Lightning needed protection from injuries as the season winds down, which made it sound more as if Gudas and Panik might stick with Tampa Bay through Saturday's season finale. "We don't want to be short," Cooper said. "We want to make sure we're fielding the best team possible to win hockey games. But we're also in a situation we won't be able to call players up. So, just in case we have to protect ourselves if somebody gets hurt." ... Sounds as if players are looking forward to wearing their Boston Strong ribbon stickers on their helmets for Thursday's game against the Bruins at TD Garden. For center Nate Thompson, who was originally drafted by the Bruins and has attended the Boston Marathon (and stood at the finish line where the first bomb went off), it will be an emotional moment. "When you've been in that city an d been there and lived there, it really hits home," Thompson said. "So, to support them is very important." The helmets will be auctioned with proceeds going to One Fund Boston, which has collected more than $20 million to distribute to those most affected by the terrorist bombings. "Every team in the league has been great and very proactive about it, just showing the people of Boston and everyone in the nation that hockey's much more than a game," Thompson said. "There's more than just playing hockey. It's about people. It's about the nation coming together and everyone supporting each other and standing tall."