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Simon Gagne returns to Tampa Bay Lightning after head injury

Tampa Bay’s Simon Gagne, right, wears a red “no contact” jersey. He practiced with the team for the first time since April 29, when he was hurt in Game 1 of the series against the Capitals.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay’s Simon Gagne, right, wears a red “no contact” jersey. He practiced with the team for the first time since April 29, when he was hurt in Game 1 of the series against the Capitals.

TAMPA — Simon Gagne said he did not want to wear a red no-contact jersey during Monday's practice at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"But I had no choice," he said.

The Lightning left wing said team rules demand players wear red as a precaution in their first practice after an injury. And Gagne had not skated with the team since April 29, when he was momentarily knocked unconscious after he was checked and his head hit the ice during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Capitals.

After Monday's high-tempo 60-minute workout, Gagne, who has two goals and seven points in eight playoff games, declared himself fit for Game 1 of the East final against the Bruins.

"I think," he said, "we'll be good to go."

The news is less encouraging for D Pavel Kubina, who apparently has had concussion-like symptoms since his head hit the glass after an elbow to the back of the head from Washington's Jason Chimera in Game 1.

Gagne probably could have come back against the Capitals, coach Guy Boucher said. But when the team took series leads of 2-0 and 3-0 on its way to a four-game sweep, there was no reason to rush Gagne back.

"I think it's important you take your time and you don't push it," Boucher said. "Especially because we were winning the series at that point, I think it's important we took our time with it."

If the series with the Bruins, as expected, does not start until Saturday, Gagne will have 15 days between games.

"It's a perfect situation for me," he said, though he admitted being a spectator during the series with the Capitals was difficult.

"It's probably the hardest thing to do," Gagne said. "I was almost like a fan before Game 4. When we won that game, I was pretty excited. I was cheering every time we scored a goal. Usually, I'm not like that."

PAST IS PAST: Boucher didn't seem worried the Lightning, in its history, has won just four of 35 games in Boston.

"I'm a strong believer in today's today," Boucher said. "Every second and every moment that you've got is an opportunity to change things."

Besides, he said, "Against Pittsburgh we hadn't won there, and we won there. Washington had the upper hand on us, and we won the series. We didn't win in Boston yet, so it's a reality. But we're not supposed to win in Boston because we didn't win during the year, let's just give them the series now."

TALL TASK: Boucher, who dubbed the series with the top-seeded Capitals "David versus Goliath," was asked if he had any similar terms for Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' 6-foot-9 defenseman.

"The Eiffel Tower? How's that?" Boucher said, laughing.

ODDS AND ENDS: LW Ryan Malone came off the ice early but is fine, Boucher said. Malone has done that from time to time to protect the groin that was injured in the regular season. … D Randy Jones and RW Steve Downie, both with lingering high ankle sprains, returned to practice after an extra day off. … C Dana Tyrell (foot) did not skate.

Simon Gagne returns to Tampa Bay Lightning after head injury 05/09/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 2:23pm]

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