ATLANTA — The Lightning has been in a constant state of turmoil this season. Why should the final weekend be any different?
The team is expected to announce today how badly star center Vinny Lecavalier was hurt by what coach John Tortorella said was "an absolute cheap shot" from the Capitals' Matt Cooke.
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau told D.C reporters, "There was nothing dirty about it." But Cooke was fined $2,500 for the hit Thursday that injured Lecavalier's right shoulder.
And, oh, yeah, if Tampa Bay loses its season finale tonight against the Thrashers at Philips Arena, it is guaranteed a last-place finish in the 30-team league and a much better chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Quite a list, but more of the same for an organization that began the season with a freak skate accident that took out star defenseman Dan Boyle for 45 games; lost more man-games to injury than it has since 2001-02; was "sold" twice; traded star center Brad Richards; listened to left wing Vinny Prospal call out Tortorella on the St. Pete Times Forum scoreboard and faces a massive rebuilding job over the summer.
And that's the short list, which doesn't even begin to quantify the angst over all the losing.
As general manager Jay Feaster said: "The way I look at it, mercifully, it ends."
Lecavalier's situation is yet another layer of gloom. The Ile Bizard, Quebec, native flew to Tampa on Friday for an MRI exam and to be examined by team physician Ira Guttentag.
"It's more than a bump," Feaster said of the injury.
As for today's game between the Southeast's worst teams, the last time they hooked up, it ended in a 2-0 Atlanta victory so dreary and poorly played, Tortorella called it "embarrassing" for both teams.
How seriously will Tampa Bay take the game given it has so much to gain by losing?
"This isn't boxing. We're not going to take a dive," Boyle said. "You need to try to win."
It is how the season began.
Since a 3-0 start, the Lightning is 28-41-9, is the league's worst road team with 11 victories, is out of the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03 and after almost four months, still is waiting for Hollywood producer Oren Koules to buy the team.
"Just look at the crazy things that have happened and the negative things that have happened," Feaster said.
Call it business as usual.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.