PITTSBURGH — It won't be known if defenseman Paul Ranger needs surgery on his left shoulder until an MRI exam after the Lightning returns from a three-game road trip that ends Saturday at Florida.
Whether he does or doesn't, Ranger likely is done for the season.
Trainer Tommy Mulligan said Ranger sustained a subluxation when checked into the glass by Buffalo's Daniel Paille during Wednesday's third period. Whether the shoulder ligaments are simply stretched or torn will determine the fix.
Best case, Mulligan said, Ranger will need two weeks to recover. With eight games left, it might not make sense for him to rush.
"Of course I'm disappointed," Ranger said Thursday, his arm in a sling. "I still want to play. I know we're out of the playoffs, but there's still some games left to bond with the guys and play with the guys and play to win.
"As much as we're out of the playoffs, you still want to prepare for next year."
Ranger, 23, who has earned a place as a core team leader, has 31 points in 72 games with a career-best 10 goals and an average 25:13 of ice time.
LEARNING EXPERIENCE: Goaltender Karri Ramo, who allowed five goals on 15 shots in the third period of the 7-4 loss to the Sabres, said Thursday's skate was therapeutic.
"I wanted to get back on the ice and move on," he said.
Good advice as coach John Tortorella stressed the season's last games will help him evaluate what the team has going into next season's training camp.
"This is part of his process," Tortorella said. "He probably had three hard saves through most of that game. We needed some saves from him in that third period. I don't think he succeeded."
Tortorella said he kept Ramo in to see how he would react: "To see if he could fight through as he was struggling a bit. I didn't get the right answer. I'm anxious to see how he plays in his next game."
So is Ramo.
"It's going to be a big game," he said, adding about Wednesday,
"Maybe I was too aggressive. I have to have more confidence in myself that when I'm standing in the net that I'm in great position and let the puck come to me."
NO GOLD STARS: Jason Ward, who played just 5:17 against Buffalo and hasn't played more than 8:04 in his past eight games, was scratched against the Penguins.
"He's playing himself right off the team as far as some of the decision-making he's making," Tortorella said.
"I hadn't heard that," Ward said. "I've just got to keep working hard. That's all I can do."
Ward shouldn't feel singled out. As Tortorella said, without being more specific, "We have people playing themselves onto the team as we start next year. I also think we have people playing themselves off the team."
ODDS AND ENDS: Right wing Marty St. Louis played his 600th NHL game. … With Jeff Halpern leaving in the first with an abdominal strain, Tampa Bay played with 10 forwards and seven defensemen, including Doug Janik, who was spotted at forward. … Left wing Andre Roy was scratched.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.