Simon Gagne returns to Tampa Bay Lighting lineup

TORONTO — A prescription medication to reduce nerve inflammation apparently helped LW Simon Gagne return to action Tuesday. Gagne said, and head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan confirmed, he began taking the drug the day after Thanksgiving.

Gagne, out 18 straight games with muscle and nerve inflammation in the back of his neck, said the pressure he felt in his head after strenuous workouts is gone.

"The last five days have been really good," he said before the game. "It's a good sign."

Even so, the Lightning kept secret Gagne would play.

"Pressure off him and distractions with the team," coach Guy Boucher said. "I think it worked out pretty good."

Especially considering "he was afraid he wouldn't be up to par with the work ethic and the speed with the other guys on the team because he hasn't been practicing with us, really."

Gagne, who hadn't played since Oct. 21, had various symptoms, including blurry vision when he moved his head quickly and pressure, mostly around the forehead.

"But we found a little medication that helped those symptoms go away," said Gagne, who had the winning goal in overtime and an assist in a 4-3 win over the Maple Leafs.

Still, he said of being back in the lineup, "We kind of kept it secret just in case I was not feeling energized for the game. I hadn't really practiced with the team. We wanted to make sure I was feeling good enough after the morning skate."

STORM SALE: Jeff Vinik, under the auspices of Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment, his umbrella company that owns the Lightning, is considering buying the Arena Football League's Storm, Lightning spokesman Bill Wicket said. Vinik also owns the lease to the St. Pete Times Forum, where the Storm plays.

STAMKOS CONTRACT: GM Steve Yzerman and the agent for C Steven Stamkos have not met since negotiations on Stamkos' contract extension began last month. But Yzerman said he and Mark Guy are in contact through e-mails and texts.

"Everything has been constructive to date," Yzerman said. "I really don't have anything enlightening to tell you at this point. We are relatively early in the discussions."

WORLD JUNIORS: Prospects Brett Connolly and Carter Ashton were invited to Canada's tryout camp for the world junior championship, which begins Dec. 26 in Buffalo.

"There is a learning opportunity there that is second to none," said Boucher, an assistant on Canada's 2009 gold medal team. "In the NHL you have to perform and make sure you're up to the task and the emotional level you need to be. Team Canada will give you that every second you're there."

NICE FRAME: The NHL, in the Lightning locker room after the morning skate, presented F Dana Tyrell with a framed score sheet from his first league game. "Pretty awesome," Tyrell said.

ODDS AND ENDS: D Matt Smaby (ankle) skated for the first time with the team since going on injured reserve on Nov. 20. … LW Mattias Ritola was scratched with a recurrence of balance issues caused by an inner ear problem, Boucher said. … C Blair Jones also was scratched.

Simon Gagne returns to Tampa Bay Lighting lineup 11/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 11:52pm]

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