Spike in strained groins has Tampa Bay Lightning mystified

Lightning wing Evgeny Artyukhin has missed two games this season with a strained groin. “The pain can be powerful,” he said.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning wing Evgeny Artyukhin has missed two games this season with a strained groin. “The pain can be powerful,” he said.

TAMPA — This, Lightning right wing Evgeny Artyukhin said, is all you need to know about groin injuries:

"The pain can be powerful."

Pain from a strain sidelined Artyukhin two games this month. He was the fourth Tampa Bay player to miss time because of such an injury — forwards Jason Ward, Radim Vrbata and Ryan Craig were the others — good for the league lead.

Because teams are not required to disclose injuries, the title is not official. But of 17 teams that do, Tampa Bay has the most.

It is notable, too, given how infrequently Lightning players have been afflicted. The team last season listed two groin strains that caused players to miss games, one in 2006-07 and three in 2005-06.

"We have seen more than we're accustomed to," trainer Tommy Mulligan said. "We don't have the answer for it. We're trying to find it and see what we can do to make sure it doesn't continue."

Meanwhile, Mulligan, massage therapist Mike Griebel and strength coach Kevin Ziegler form Tampa Bay's three-pronged approach to rehabilitation.

"The first thing you have to do is find out what caused it," Mulligan said.

"Is it a fatigue issue? Is it a weakness issue?"

Either way, Mulligan said the groin needs several days to "calm down" before rehab begins.

Ice reduces swelling. Massage increases flexibility. Electric stimulation promotes healing.

"I'll do ice massage sometimes, elevate the leg, push the fluid back into the lymphatic system, try to keep everything stretched out," Griebel said.

Ziegler helps recondition the healing muscle.

But groins can be tricky, said James Gladstone, chief of sports medicine at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital.

Because of their location, they are difficult to strengthen. As such, Gladstone said, they can take up to three months to fully heal. In hockey players, even longer: "They linger. It's like pitchers who have shoulder problems. It's a real overuse phenomenon."

That is one reason new Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said he is committed to giving players more days off, a plan embraced by former coach John Tortorella but not so much by coach Barry Melrose, who was fired Friday.

Still, Tocchet said, "It's also on (the player) to make sure you are stretching properly and getting yourself ready."

Even so, Craig said, groin injuries "just seem to come. As a pro, you prepare to practice, you prepare to train. If you do that, you give yourself the best chance. But stuff happens, as we all know."

Lecavalier DENIES: Captain Vinny Lecavalier denied a Canadian report he was responsible for Melrose's firing.

"I didn't do it," Lecavalier said. "I don't know what else to say."

Hockey Night in Canada's Al Strachan said Saturday in an unsourced report, "I heard Vinny Lecavalier went in to ownership and said, 'I didn't like it under Tortorella. This is worse under this guy, and you've got to get rid of him.' "

"I'm telling you, I didn't say anything," Lecavalier reiterated. "I don't think any of the guys did it. He's just saying that."

Asked if he worries his reputation could be tarnished by such an accusation, Lecavalier said, "To tell you the truth, I don't. (Strachan) said what he had to say … but there weren't facts."

"They're always looking for stories," Tocchet said. "With (Lecavalier), they're not there."

ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning announced four games will air on Ch. 44: Nov. 29 against the Avalanche, Dec. 20 against the Thrashers, April 4 against the Islanders and April 11 against the Thrashers. Sixty-nine games are now on television. … The team will unveil its third jersey Sunday against the Devils. … LW Ryan Malone (leg) said he could play Friday against the Predators.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Spike in strained groins has Tampa Bay Lightning mystified 11/19/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 21, 2008 6:11pm]

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