TAMPA — So, really, how did Lightning center Dominic Moore go from being almost certainly out of Saturday's season opener against the Thrashers to being expected to play?
"We made some prayers," coach Guy Boucher said, laughing.
Seriously, though, the good news about Moore's groin injury — and that right wing Teddy Purcell's charley horse is good enough so he also should be in the lineup, and that captain Vinny Lecavalier and his bruised left foot were back on the ice Tuesday at the St. Pete Times Forum — was welcome relief from the headache that injuries have been during the preseason.
Ten players (at least that is how many the team acknowledged) have missed practices or games, the result, for the most part, Boucher said, of the normal wear and tear of an arduous preseason.
But the coach also said some players did not report injuries and consequently made them worse, so as not to turn off a new coaching staff.
"You don't want to look like a whiner," Boucher said. "You want to suck it up. Some of them, it turned out to be okay, but others, they sucked it up a little too long."
Add that the team had just three days of workouts before a four-day, five-night road trip that was a first audition for jobs, and the stress on bodies was intense.
As Purcell said, "All summer you can train, but you can't really train for as much skating as you do. We were talking about it the other day, the little bumps you take, you can't prepare for that."
Still, Boucher considers the Lightning lucky. Defenseman Mattias Ohlund is out at least two weeks with inflammation and fluid in his right knee, but he is the only player expected to miss Saturday's game because of injury. In fact, Boucher said most of Tampa Bay's injured players would not have sat during the regular season.
"There's injuries, and (there are) guys who are hurt," he said. "It's not the same thing. In this game, if you can't play hurt, you might as well go play pingpong. If you play hard, you're hurt all the time."
Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said the preseason mind-set was not to rush players back to the ice: "At this time of year we just don't want to take any chances."
Which is why Boucher was disappointed, to an extent, with Moore and goaltender Cedrick Desjardins.
Desjardins, now with AHL Norfolk, admitted he did not tell coaches about a groin/abdominal strain because he wanted to play a Sept. 25 game in Calgary. He did well but aggravated the injury and has not skated since.
Moore, hurt Sept. 21 against the Stars, aggravated the injury in a Sept. 24 practice and did not skate again until Tuesday.
Boucher said Moore pushed when he should have rested.
"I don't think that line of logic was a factor," he said. "It's more I hate being idle. I hate not being able to practice and play. I like being in the thick of the action."
Moore said he will practice Thursday and Friday before a final decision is made about Saturday. But Boucher said, "Moore looks good. We're going to get lucky."
Or his prayers were answered.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]