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Injuries muddle Tampa Bay Lightning's line combos

TAMPA — Injuries to Lightning LW Simon Gagne (neck strain) and C Dominic Moore (groin) are making it tough for Guy Boucher to sort out his second and third lines.

The coach admitted the season-starting line of C Vinny Lecavalier, Gagne and Ryan Malone, which produced zero goals as a unit, was a bust.

"Not that they weren't working. They were working hard," Boucher said Wednesday. "Whether it's because it's the beginning or they're not used to playing together, it didn't click."

Boucher likes the recent combinations of Lecavalier and LW Sean Bergenheim and Moore and Malone as foundations for second and third lines.

But with Moore and Gagne out and with the addition of C Blair Jones from AHL Norfolk, players were rotated on all four lines against the Penguins as Boucher played 11 forwards instead of the usual 12.

One line generally not touched was the first line of C Steven Stamkos with Marty St. Louis and Steve Downie, which has 15 of the team's 32 goals.

On the other hand, Lecavalier, with three goals, has just five points. Malone, who entered averaging just 14:00 of ice time, down 4:45 from last season, still has one goal and five points, though he and Lecavalier played superbly against Pittsburgh. Gagne has zero points.

"We're trying to figure out what kind of connection we can have with some other guys," Boucher said. "It's the third week of the season, and that's the kind of stuff we haven't figured out yet.

"It takes a bit of time and some mingling among the players to figure it out."

CLEAR HEAD: Gagne had an MRI exam Tuesday at University Community Hospital that confirmed he does not have a concussion, important because concussions have plagued him throughout his career. He is on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 21. He is eligible to be reinstated Friday, though that is not expected.

A FIRST FOR OHLUND: While D Mattias Ohlund (knee) said he was "excited" to play his first regular-season game, he acknowledged concern about a lack of game conditioning.

Boucher was careful with him and gave him only 12:14 of ice time but had him on the ice for 1:39 of the game's final 2:48.

WELCOME BACK: For the seventh time in his pro career, Jones was called up from the minors, and this time, he hopes it sticks.

"I put in a lot of pretty hard work down there, and it's paid off so far," said Jones, 24, who had four goals and 10 points in seven games for AHL Norfolk.

Boucher said Jones was "very close" to making the Lightning out of camp because of his "work ethic and desire to be first on puck. … It's funny. I didn't make the decision to bring him up. I asked for the hardest working guy, and he showed up."

ODDS AND ENDS: St. Louis has four goals and eight points in a five-game points streak. … Stamkos has four goals and 12 points in a five-game streak. ... W Mattias Ritola got his first point with an assist on Teddy Purcell's goal. ... That D Brett Clark (wrist) was in the lineup was a small surprise. … D Matt Smaby (stomach virus) and Jones were scratched. … The Penguins had played to 10 straight crowds of more than 19,000 at the St. Pete Times Forum. Wednesday's attendance was 17,226.

Injuries muddle Tampa Bay Lightning's line combos 10/27/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:27am]
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