The Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday called up forwards Marc Pouliot and Johan Harju from AHL Norfolk to help fill a huge void in the team's lineup left by injuries to Vinny Lecavalier, Simon Gagne and Steve Downie. Lecavalier on Thursday sustained a nondisplaced fracture of the large knuckle on his right index finger. He will be out at least three weeks to a month.
In other words, coach Guy Boucher has his hands full filling out a lineup that may be short on firepower but needs to be long on grit and willingness.
"There won't be any lines," Boucher said before Friday's game with the Penguins. "Right now I'm starting with something, but I don't want to put the kids (Pouliot and Harju) on together the whole game. I know what's going to happen. (The Penguins) are going to wait for us to put our kids out and (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin are going to come on. So, we're going to be a little smarter than that."
That said, Boucher said he will start with these lines:
Ryan Malone-Steven Stamkos-Marty St. Louis
Sean Bergenheim-Dominic Moore-Teddy Purcell
Dana Tyrell-Nate Thompson-Adam Hall
Johan Harju-Marc Pouliot-Mattias Ritola
On the power play, Ritola will get Lecavalier's spot along the right side wall. Boucher said he also could use Ryan Malone in Lecavalier's spot, but then someone would have to take Malone's spot in front of the net.
Also: Mike Smith will get the start in goal.
With everything kind of makeshift, Boucher said he still wants some constants such as fewer penalties and shorter shifts.
"The guys need to play 20, 25 seconds," Boucher said. "We can't be out-changed by the opponent. if our top guys stay one minute on the ice, they're not going to have the juice to play power play and penalty kill and lead the team. Even the top guys, the most in-shape guys can't sustain that. Those are things, not even in terms of X's and O's, that are huge for us as guys are going to have all kinds of roles to play. ... The problem isn't that we're missing three guys in terms of numbers. It's tough because you're asking guys to do more than they actually can. It's okay for the short term, but after a little while is we're going to have the same guys on the power play and the penalty kill, so we're going to drain everybody until the new guys (Pouliot and Harju) figure out how to play and how to manage the program."
The good news for the Lightning is the system being played in Norfolk is exactly the same as the one in Tampa.
Other stuff from the afternoon meetings: Boucher said the best-case scenario is Downie will return Sunday against the Wild. ... Pouliot admitted he did not immediately tell the coaching staff about a neck injury he had in training camp. "You don't have a lot of time to impress in training camp," he said. Added Boucher: "He wanted to make the team and didn't want to make an excuse. He started great but all of a sudden you could see something was wrong. But since he didn't tell anybody, we evaluated his play." ... Boucher coached Pouliot at Rimouski of the Quebec junior league. Not only did he use him on a line with Crosby, he used Pouliot as center and moved Crosby to wing. ... Norfolk GM Julien BriseBois said Pouliot, who led the Admirals with 18 points on four goals and 14 assists in 12 games "is one of the best players in the entire (AHL). He's good in all situations, sets up plays, blocks shots and wins battles. Hopefully, he can showcase himself and re-establish himself." Pouliot, 25, was drafted 22nd overall in 2003 by the Oilers and has 21 goals in 176 NHL games. "I feel better now," he said. "I've gained some confidence. There's no excuse. I didn't have a good camp. Now, I'm ready." ... Harju, who had 16 points with a team-best seven goals, said he finally has gotten used to the smaller North American rink, and BriseBois added, "He's a fabulous skater and a really good wrist shot he gets off really quickly." ... As for losing his two best players from a Norfolk team off to a 7-4-1 start, BriseBois said, "It's the nature of the beast. That's life in the minors. That's why depth is so important. You have to have enough depth to weather the storm when the storm comes." ... Nice quote from Boucher about Malone finally getting rewarded for his hard work by picking up his second goal of the season on Thursday. "At some point your game gets better and better, but you need some candy. You can trick or treat all you want, but if no one gives you candy you're going to stop going to the house."
And just a couple program notes: Lecavalier will do color commentary on 620-AM during the second period of tonight's game with the Penguins. ... Chris Dingman will fill in for analyst Phil Esposito on 620-AM during Sunday's game with the Wild.