BRANDON — Forgive Lightning coach Guy Boucher if he believes unnatural forces are gathering against his team.
That's what happens when nine players are out because of injuries.
"The hockey gods," Boucher said, "are whipping us left and right."
The latest casualty is right wing Dana Tyrell, who left Monday's practice at the Ice Sports Forum early with what is believed a knee problem.
Add the loss of left wing Ryan Malone, out with an upper-body injury sustained during Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Coyotes, and the team was down to 11 forwards and six defensemen before wing Mike Angelidis and defenseman Evan Oberg were called up from AHL Norfolk.
"I can't even tell you which one is upper body, lower body, the back of the body, the top of the head, we've got them all," Boucher said of all the injuries. "To me, it's just a blur right now."
To say Tampa Bay is looking forward to the healing powers of the Wednesday-Sunday All-Star break is an understatement.
In fact, Boucher said he expects Malone and forwards Ryan Shannon (knee) and Tom Pyatt (leg) to be ready to go when the team reunites on Monday.
He also said defenseman Victor Hedman (concussion) is skating hard daily and doing full off-ice workouts.
First though, the Lightning has to get through tonight's game at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with the Blue Jackets; a game Tampa Bay will play with as many as five players brought up in the past few weeks from the minors.
It is a critical contest.
If the Lightning, no matter how much of a long shot, is to mount any kind of playoff run, it cannot lose to teams such as Columbus, last in the West.
A victory would increase Tampa Bay's winning streak to a season-best four and be a nice post-break launching point.
"It's not all of a sudden the game of the year," Boucher said. "But if we can manage (tonight's) game and have something positive come out of it, it would make everybody feel that we've accomplished something."
The Lightning was in a similar situation at the end of December, when it won three straight and believed it had turned a corner. But then came a seven-game losing streak center Steven Stamkos said was "more than humbling.
"I think we've corrected some things in our game that we obviously didn't like," Stamkos said of the team's long-standing malady of slow starts.
And despite "dealing with a lot of adversity right now, injury-wise, we're finding a way," he added. "By no means are we on the way to the Stanley Cup final, but we've got a good thing going right now."
Boucher wants so desperately to keep it going and stomp the injury bug, he joked about a sacrifice to the hockey gods.
"If we could do that, I'd sacrifice a lot," he said.
Seriously, though, "It's the most injuries we've had since I've been here, by far, and it's very taxing," Boucher said. "We've answered with a lot of character, lately. We want to show that we want to survive."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]