TAMPA — Center Dominic Moore says he's a "pretty restless guy as it is."
Add the fact Moore had to miss the past five games — including the Lightning's tough West Coast trip in which it went 1-2-1 — with a groin injury, it was very frustrating.
"It's just that helpless feeling," Moore said.
Moore's expected return tonight against Toronto at the St. Pete Times Forum should be a big help to Tampa Bay (7-4-2), which is hampered by injuries. Defenseman Matt Smaby (right foot sprain) should also be back.
Moore, 30, had been one of the team's best two-way players in the season's first few weeks, and coach Guy Boucher said his impact goes beyond the stat sheet, including his leadership.
"He's one of those guys that is so upbeat and so smart, he picked up real quick what I wanted to do out there, and the rest of the staff," Boucher said. "Those guys, you need them around your team because they transpire the culture that you're trying to build. And him not being there, you're okay for a game, you're okay for two … but after a while, it hurts you. And I think having Moore on that trip there, at least one of those last two games, or the third game against Anaheim, I'm sure we would have at least got one point out of that with a guy like that in the lineup."
Boucher said there was also a domino effect with Moore out, as other players were put in different situations.
"It's not just (Moore's) play," Boucher said. "Because he plays, other guys are a little more rested. I had to ask a lot of our top guys; they had to play penalty kill, power play. The last game (against San Jose), we were just drained."
Moore's groin injury had bothered him since training camp. He is trying to manage it; he hasn't played since Oct. 24.
"I think we're staying on top of it," said Moore, third on the team with four goals. "We're monitoring and making sure we do everything maintenance-wise and prevention-wise and pretty much throwing everything at it."
ODDS AND ENDS: Steve Downie, bothered by a back injury, didn't practice Monday due to "body maintenance." Boucher said he's a "major question mark" tonight. Boucher said Simon Gagne, on injured reserve with a neck injury, feels better and has been limited to work on a stationary bike. Boucher reiterated Gagne's symptoms aren't concussion related. "We obviously tested for all the concussion stuff, and there was nothing that showed there were some problems there," Boucher said. "It was the same guys that test NFL players, so that's very reliable." … Martha Fuller was named chief financial officer, the team said Monday. Fuller was executive vice president and CFO of Washington's Vulcan Inc.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected].