Ryan Malone ready to return to Tampa Bay Lightning's lineup
The Lightning should get a boost tonight against the Jets when left wing Ryan Malone returns to the lineup after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury.
“It feels good,” Malone said. “I think we just took our time with it and went through the rehab properly. So, it feels good, and I’m excited to get back for a big game.”
Malone, 33, was hurt before the Feb. 10 game at the Rangers during the team’s usual soccer ball kick-around. Malone said he aggravated an existing condition when he tried to kick the ball.
It took so Malone so long to get back, he said, because the team wanted him completely healed before he got back on the ice. A good plan as Malone has been injury prone. He has not played more than 70 games in any of his four previous Tampa Bay seasons, and in 20010-11 played only 54.
“We didn’t want to come back too early for any reason,” Malone said. “You want to do everything you can to help the team, but you want to make sure you do everything you can not to get injured again.”
“Nothing is like a game,” Malone added, “but as much body contact as I could get in practice, we did. I’m fully healed and ready.”
Expect Malone, who has four goals and five points in 10 games, to take his usual turns on the power play and penalty kill, though coach Guy Boucher said he will monitor Malone’s minutes.
“He hasn’t played in a long timer, so I have to be smart and give him the minutes he can manager,” Boucher said. “I’m going to have to hold it back a little bit so he can look good on the ice.”
Other stuff from the morning skate: With Malone back in the lineup, sounds as if forward Adam Hall will be scratched. … Center Steven Stamkos, with a league-best 17 goals, did not skate but is expected to play. Boucher said Stamkos simply deserved a rest. … Defensemen Marc-Ander Bergeron and Brendan Mikkelson also will be scratched. … As expected, Anders Lindback will be in net against Winnipeg. … Goaltender Mathieu Garon on Wednesday had an MRI exam on the lower body injury that forced him out of Monday’s game at Pittsburgh. He said the exam came back all clear and he will skate Friday and then re-evaluate. … Captain Vinny Lecavalier’s production has fallen off recently, but it coincides with his left foot injury, sustained Feb. 2, when he took a slap shot from teammate Sami Salo flush off the left foot. Lecavalier has two goals and nine points in 15 games since then. Before the injury he had four goals and 11 points in eight games. “It’s been tough for him,” Boucher said. “It affects his push-off, it affects his timing. Eventually, it’s his confidence. He was just trying to survive out there.” But Lecavalier has shown signs of a rebound with three assists in his past two games. His two-point effort Tuesday at New Jersey was his best overall since his injury. “I definitely feel stronger now,” he said. “It feels better every day.” Asked if a game or two off would have helped, Lecavalier said sitting out was never seriously considered, especially with the team struggling. “You want to be part of it,” he said. “You want to keep pushing through as a player. You ask any guys in this room. If the same thing happened, they would do the same thing. They want to keep playing and want to keep going.” … Rookie Cory Conacher said the head shot he took Tuesday from New Jersey’s Cam Janssen “hurt a little” but “I tried to get up as fast as I could to show no pain.” Janssen left his feet and used his shoulder to hit Conacher. Janssen got a charging penalty. There was no supplementary discipline from the league. “It was my fault for not guarding myself a little better and expecting the hit,” Conacher said, and added about teammate Victor Hedman confronting Janssen, “It’s the type of teammate you want. It’s important to have guys like that on your team. It shows a lot of character. You have to appreciate him doing that for me. … Terry Crisp, the Lightning’s first coach and now a television analyst for the Predators, will be honored at tonight’s game as part of Tampa Bay’s 20th anniversary celebration.