TAMPA — It is going to take an awful lot to keep Lightning veteran LW Ryan Malone out of a playoff hockey game.
This is, after all, the same Malone that took a slap shot off the face late in the second period of Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup final while with Pittsburgh, broke his nose and returned to play the third period.
So when Malone missed a large chunk of the first period of Monday night's Game 3 against the Penguins with an undisclosed upper-body injury — and played just 4 minutes, 55 seconds in the first two periods — it garnered some attention.
But Malone, who logged more than six minutes in the third period and had a couple of quality scoring chances in the game, is fine, coach Guy Boucher said, and is expected to play in Wednesday's Game 4 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"It's the playoffs; they're all going to hurt," Boucher said. "If they're not, they're not paying the price enough."
Malone was in the training room after Monday's 3-2 loss, in which he played 11:12 total, and declined to make himself available to the media. He appeared to get shaken up after taking a hit into the boards early in the first. The team said after the period that his return was questionable. But teammates weren't surprised he fought through the injury.
"He's a warrior," C Nate Thompson said. "He's a guy that does everything. And he plays through anything. You saw that (Monday night), you know he's going to play no matter what. It's the playoffs; it's what it's all about."
WAITING GAME: Boucher said that D Marc-Andre Bergeron (minor lower-body injury) and D Randy Jones (high ankle sprain) "can play," but with six other healthy defensemen, it allows the team the luxury of giving the two a little more time to get better.
Both were scratched Monday night, along with fellow D Matt Smaby.
MORNING TALK: The Lightning didn't hold a morning skate, and the Penguins did, which isn't surprising considering the approaches of each coach. Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma said he likes the skate to allow players to get their legs loose. Boucher said he "hates" morning skates because they usually last longer than they should, which drains energy. Tampa Bay has morning skates but generally only after days in which the team has not practiced. Boucher likes it when players go all out, and morning skates have a more leisurely pace.
ALWAYS THERE: Assistant coach Wayne Fleming, who has a malignant brain tumor, was with the team at the St. Pete Times Forum. Boucher said Fleming would be at the game and offer observations. He stayed in constant contact with coaches through text messages and headsets when the team was in Pittsburgh for Games 1 and 2. "We got loads of information from Wayne," Boucher said. "I think having him here present (Sunday) and (Monday) is going to be good for the players. They're happy to see him; it's good for me, good for the rest of the staff, and good for him, too."
MISCELLANY: There has been no change in status for Penguins star Sidney Crosby, out since Jan. 5 after a concussion. Crosby did not participate in Pittsburgh's morning skate and hasn't taken the ice since Friday but has worked out off the ice. … C Steven Stamkos' assist on Marty St. Louis' first-period goal was his first career playoff point.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.