Ondrej Palat out 3-5 weeks with lower body injury
Lightning wing Ondrej Palat will be sidelined 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury, the team announced Monday.
"It's obviously bad," said Palat, wearing a brace around his left ankle. "It sucks to be injured and not play and help the guys out."
It is a big blow to Tampa Bay (7-7-2), which is in a stunning scoring slump and lost six of its last eight. It certainly didn't look good when Palat had to be helped into the dressing room Saturday in Minnesota. Palat got hurt when a Wild player fell awkwardly on his left leg/ ankle. He said it was "bad pain," and knew something was wrong.
Palat, the engine of the touted Triplets line last season, had been playing well on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula recently. He's also a key cog on the power play and penalty kill, averaging nearly 4:30 of special teams ice time per game.
"He's an extremely valuable player to our team, plays in alll situations," coach Jon Cooper said. "You don't have to ask me, you watch the games. Our depth will be tested now. Palat plays all the hard minutes, and all the important minutes.. He's as honest a player as you're going to find in this league. That speaks volumes about the way he plays, and how he's felt about in our team."
There will likely need to be a callup from AHL Syracuse, maybe Jonathan Marchessault. For now, wing Jonathan Drouin took Palat's place on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula. Drouin, who returned Saturday after missing five games with a lower-body injury, said he was a little "rusty" but it'll take a team effort to fill Palat's shoes.
"You can't really replace a guy like (Palat), the way he plays is pretty unique," Drouin said. "He's got the skill, he goes to the net, he's hard to play against. He's in your face."
Center Cedric Paquette and defenseman Anton Stralman also didn't participate in Monday's practice due to "body maintenance." But Cooper said there's no guarantee either play Tuesday against Buffalo.
Tampa Bay will play seven of the next nine games at home, a prime opportunity to climb in the standings.
"It would have been an unreal opportunity had we won a few more games here in the first 16," Cooper said. "Now it becomes a little bit more crucial. Our margin for error is not what you'd like it to be. We have to take advantage of these home games coming up."