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Simon Gagne expected to play for Tampa Bay Lightning in East final opener

TAMPA — Lightning coach Guy Boucher said LW Simon Gagne will practice with the team today and indicated he should be ready to play when the East final against the Bruins begins.

Gagne (upper-body injury), who has been out since hitting his head on the ice in Game 1 of the Capitals series, skated on his own during Sunday's practice.

"He's feeling very good," Boucher said. "Chances are, he'll be playing."

D Pavel Kubina, who was knocked out of the same game when Capitals LW Jason Chimera sent his head into the glass, is taking a little bit more time, Boucher said, and is day to day.

Gagne's return would provide a big boost, a top-six forward and veteran who had two goals and five assists in the playoffs before getting hurt. It will also provide depth.

"We had great contribution from our third and fourth line. With Gagne coming in, it certainly will give a break to some of the other guys," Boucher said. "Because we played with 11 forwards and some guys got a lot of ice time … we can spread it out a little more evenly."

CLASS REUNION: Lightning W Marty St. Louis and Bruins G Tim Thomas have remained friends since they played together at the University of Vermont from 1993 to 1997. But St. Louis said facing each other in the conference final is, really, a nonstory.

"We're, like, 14 years removed from college," St. Louis said. "I think we've moved on. Early on when we played against each other, it was weird because you just came from college playing four years together.

"We've been on different teams for a long time. I don't think this is Timmy vs. Marty. It has nothing to do with that."

St. Louis and Thomas are in Vermont's athletic Hall of Fame, and both are up for major awards.

St. Louis is a finalist for the Hart Trophy given to the league MVP. Thomas is a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie.

"We've both found our way in the NHL, and I'm just excited to be in the tournament like he is," St. Louis said. "I'm approaching this series not going there to play Timmy Thomas. I'm going to play against the Boston Bruins, and it happens Timmy is in net."

NO WORRIES: With a layoff of at least a week between rounds, Boucher was asked if he was worried about his team losing some momentum from its seven-game winning streak.

Boucher pointed out Boston is in the same boat, having swept its series and getting a similar amount of days off.

"We're on equal grounds with the other team, and I think that's important," Boucher said. "I know a lot of people said they were hoping the (Boston-Philadelphia) series would last longer and that they would get tired. I was actually hoping for the opposite; that we'd both be in the same boat."

ODDS AND ENDS: The series will begin Thursday or Saturday in Boston, Boucher said. … Lightning F Dana Tyrell (foot) did not skate along with D Randy Jones and RW Steve Downie, both of whom got extra rest time, the team said.

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Simon Gagne expected to play for Tampa Bay Lightning in East final opener 05/08/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 8, 2011 10:34pm]
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