Ryan Malone expected out 3-4 weeks with an ankle fracture
Lightning coach Jon Cooper hinted Tuesday morning that left wing Ryan Malone might be out a while, but gave no specifics. It was up to general manager Steve Yzerman to deliver the bad news:
Malone, who was hit with a puck Nov. 22 at Anaheim, has a non displaced ankle fracture and is expected out three to four weeks.
There just seems to be no respite from injury news for Tampa Bay, which has six players out with injuries: Malone, defensemen Brian Lee (knee) and Radko Gudas (upper body), and forwards Malone, Steven Stamkos (broken right leg), Tom Pyatt (collarbone) and Pierre-Cedric Labrie (left arm/elbow).
Labrie participated in Tuesday's morning skate, though with a red no-contact jersey. Labrie will miss his third straight game tonight against the Blue Jackets with a left arm/elbow issue. He is on the mend, though, as Cooper said Labrie shot the puck well, and Labrie said his best-case scenario has him ready to go by Saturday's game with the Jets. There also is a chance Gudas could be ready by the weekend.
Pyatt who already has missed 23 games with a broken collarbone and might be out another two to four weeks after a CT scan showed the bone not healing as quickly as hoped. It is frustrating for Pyatt who has been practicing with the team and says he feels fine.
Yzerman said there is no cause for concern with Pyatt as the eight-week threshold for healing, which just passed, is on the "early side."
"I don't think it's uncommon for this type of injury to be eight to 12 weeks, potentially," Yzerman said. "We were all hoping at the eight week mark he'd be good to go but he needs a little more time. Obviously, we're hoping it's not 12 weeks. So, it's taking a little longer but not a reason from our perspective for concern.
Add Stamkos' injury and Tampa Bay has jerry-rigged its forward lineup to such an extent that it's second line is made up of center Alex Killorn (64 NHL games), and rookie wings J.T. Brown (14 games) and Nikita Kucherov (three games).
In all, the Lightning is playing seven rookies: Brown, Kucherov, the Kid Line of center Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik, and defensemen Mark Barberio and Andrej Sustr. Include Gudas, out with an upper-body injury, and it is eight.
"What's happened so far is because of our injuries ice time has been accelerated for a lot of our young guys," coach Jon Cooper said. "Probably not an ideal situation but we're eventually going to be a better team for it, especially come spring time. It's a little bit of a trial by fire, but so far all the guys have passed the test. It's been a lot of fun to be with this group so far."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Ben Bishop, who has stopped 104 of 107 shots in his past three games, gets the start in net. ... Defenseman Keith Aulie said he is playing tonight against the Blue Jackets. No definitive word from Cooper but that would indicate Tampa Bay going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen with right wing Dana Tyrell scratched. ... When Stamkos was hurt Nov. 11 at Boston he had 14 goals in 17 games, an average of .8. In the nine games Stamkos has missed, Tampa Bay's average goals have gone down .8, from 3.1 with him in the lineup to 2.3 with him out of the lineup. With the Lightning having already cut an average of .6 goals allowed from last season (down to 2.5 from 3.1), Cooper said it would be unrealistic to expect his team to cut that much more to make up for the loss of Stamkos' offensive production. That is why Cooper said, "The onus is on our forwards. We have to go to the net harder. We can't be pulling up. That's a bad habit we had (in Friday's 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh), We pulled up which leads to one-and-dones, and now we're playing defense. We have to drive pucks to the net. We have to go to the net and stay there. We have to go there with a passion. I think we've gotten away from that. Once we start doing that a little more I think pucks will start going in for us. But too much perimeter play, and that's costing us." ... Asked what can be done to jump-start the offense, captain Marty St. Louis said simply, "the power play." Indeed, Tampa Bay's power play is in a 4-for-44 slump in its past 14 games. ... The son of Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness -- also named Rick -- is manager of communications for the Blue Jackets. ... Prospect Jonathan Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick of the draft, was named player of the month in the junior Quebec league with 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 10 games. ... Goaltending prospect Andrey Vasilevskiy will attend Russia's selection camp for the 2014 world junior championships.