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Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Cory Murphy could be out for the season with a broken foot

Matt Lashoff (55), acquired in the Mark Recchi deal, will step into Cory Murphy’s spot as power-play quarterback.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Matt Lashoff (55), acquired in the Mark Recchi deal, will step into Cory Murphy’s spot as power-play quarterback.

TAMPA — Had Cory Murphy not been slashed across his stick Tuesday, had he not dropped it because of the blow, everything might have been different.

But in the time the Lightning defenseman reached down to pick up his stick, his right foot was broken by Vinny Lecavalier's slap shot.

"It's a hard shot," Murphy said. "He got a hold of it."

Murphy is expected to be out three to four weeks, meaning he might be through for the season.

It is a huge blow for the Lightning. Murphy was the quarterback of a power play that is 10-for-32 in its past eight games. He also is the fourth Tampa Bay defenseman on the sideline, including Paul Ranger, Andrej Meszaros and Marek Malik.

The bright side, if you can call it that, is it will give the team a good look at Matt Lashoff, 22, the key piece from the Bruins in the Mark Recchi trade-deadline deal and, beginning tonight against the Southeast-leading Capitals at the St. Pete Times Forum, the new power-play point man.

"The job's his," coach Rick Tocchet said.

"You know, Murph has been great to me, and it's tough to see him go down," Lashoff said. "But it's an opportunity for me to step up and come to the table and bring what I can bring. It's a part of the game that is an asset to me, my offensive ability. I have to take advantage of it."

Especially after four seasons with the Bruins organization in which he played just 46 NHL games, with one goal and seven assists, and worked under a mandate to get stronger and make quicker, more decisive passes.

He has big shoes to fill. Murphy, playing for a new contract, has five goals and 15 points in 25 games since being claimed off waivers, and four goals among his 10 power-play points.

"I don't want to put a lot of pressure on him, so he doesn't think he has to score or make a great play the first couple of outings," Tocchet said of Lashoff. "He's going to have a regular time on (the power play) to get used to it. I hope he can relax."

So does Lashoff, who admitted pressing when on the point during two power plays in the final 5:25 of the third period that failed to break a 3-3 tie with the Maple Leafs, who went on to a 4-3 shootout victory.

"I really wanted to bring something," said Lashoff, who played 22 minutes, 58 seconds, with a shot and a hit, "so it's something I have to keep in the back of my head. It's not necessarily me going out and taking it all on my shoulders. It's just a mater of distributing the puck.

"Those guys are world-class players. It's a matter of getting them the puck and making simple plays, and getting the puck on net when the case permits itself."

Tocchet said he will cut Lashoff some slack. On Feb. 28 while playing for AHL Providence, the blue-liner was cut on the left knee by a skate. A 30-stitch gash sidelined him until last weekend's two games with Norfolk.

Lashoff also must acclimate to the speed of the NHL game, especially on the point, where decisions must be made quickly.

Still, Tocchet said, "He knows we're looking for D, and there are jobs open. Are you going to take hold of it and grab it?"

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Cory Murphy could be out for the season with a broken foot 03/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 3:42pm]
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