Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier out indefinitely with lower-body injury
The Tampa Bay Lightning sustained a huge loss Thursday when it was announced captain Vinny Lecavalier will be out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
Lecavalier will be on injured reserve, which means a seven-day absence, but general manager Steve Yzerman said Lecavalier will be out longer than that, though he added that no surgery is required.
In response, center Tyler Johnson was called up from AHL Syracuse. Johnson leads the AHL with 32 goals. He also has 26 assists and his 58 points in 59 games leads the Crunch.
Lecavalier's injury happened late in Tampa Bay's 3-2 victory over the Panthers on Tuesday when he came around the Florida net and slammed into a Panthers player. He limped off the ice and was hunched over on the bench, but coach Guy Boucher said after the game that Lecavalier was fine.
"I wanted to do my med school, but it didn't happen," Boucher said Thursday, and added, "That's our season right there, adversity. We'll get through it."
"A big hole in our lineup," Yzerman said.
The injury could not have come at a worse time for the Lightning, which is trying to climb back into the playoff race, but for Lecavalier, who seemed to be just rounding back into shape from a bruised left foot sustained Feb. 2 against the Rangers when hit by a shot from teammate Sami Salo.
Lecavalier finally admitted the foot has hampered him, and he has only three goals in the 18 games since he was hurt. But he has felt better lately and has a goal and five points in his past five games.
"It's tough," center Steve Stamkos said. "We all know what Vinny brings to the team. He's looked better the past coupleof games. I know that foot was bothering him more than people knew."
As for how the injury affects Tampa Bay's playoff hopes, Stamkos added, "It just becomes another obstacle, more adversity that we have to overcome. Noone is feeling sorry for us. As hard as it is with the things that have gone on during this year with losing streaks, losing guys to injuries, bad bounces, none of it matters right now. We have to find a way and it starts from within."
Johnson, 22, was at the Lightning's training camp, and Boucher said he might have stuck with the team had Tampa Bay not already had a full roster of centers. The other concern is his size, listed as 5 feet 9, 182.
Even so, Boucher said, "He does it all" on the ice. "It's a question, now, can he do it at this level?"
"You can't put pressure on Johnson to do what Vinny has done with the experience he's had," Boucher added. "It would be a wrong expectation. Come in and do what you normally do. We know who you are. Just play an easy game, stick to the simple things and the rest will take care of itsellf."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Looking to overcome the loss of Lecavalier in the faceoff circle (he has won 54.8 percent), Adam Hall is back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in three straight games. He has won 56 percent of his faceoffs. "You can never be too good at it," Hall said. "If you stop working at it for a day you're going to fall behind on it." ... Defenseman Brian Lee also is scratched for the second straight game. ... Radko Gudas came off the ice after the morning skate and the first thing noticed was he trimmed the beard he has been growing since Jan. 1. Gudas said he just wanted to look more professional now that he was in the NHL. As for how he looked, he said, "like human." ... Nice moment for rookies Alex Killorn and Pierre-Cedric Labrie was the word from Yzerman that they could look for housing and get out of the hotel they've been in since their call-ups from Syracuse. They plan to share a condo. "I think it will be a lot of fun," Killorn said.