The Tampa Bay Lightning will get a significant piece of its roster back on Thursday when captain Vinny Lecavalier is expected to play against the Devils in Newark, N.J. Lecavalier has missed 18 games with a fractured right hand sustained Feb. 18 against the Capitals when he was hit by a puck.
"Happy to get back in the lineup," he tweeted.
Center Nate Thompson also might return after six games sidelined by an upper-body injury. In anticipation, right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie was reassigned to AHL Norfolk.
Lecavalier's absence left a huge hole in the lineup. He has 21 goals, 46 points in 58 games and averages 19:04 of ice time. He also is second on the team with five winning goals. Still, with only six games left in the season, the question is: is it worth it to bring him back?
Both Lecavalier and coach Guy Boucher told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this week that was not an option.
"The guys have been working so hard, as soon as I'm ready I want to play," Lecavalier said, "even if there's seven, five, three games."
Added Boucher: "Our mentality is every game we want to put our best team on the ice."
Besides, Boucher added, it is not as if Lecavalier can hurt himself further by playing. "A bone is either broken or it isn't," he said.
Still, Lecavalier admitted the bone, next to the one on which he had surgery last season, took longer to heal than expected. And being out of the lineup for so long, his minutes likely will be closely monitored.