TAMPA — The Lightning hit a milestone Sunday when it passed 300 man-games lost to injury or illness.
The team is at 305, its most since 456 in 1999-2000. And with seven players on the shelf, including D Matt Smaby, who went down Friday with a lower body injury vs. the Capitals, and six games left, well, you do the math.
"Not this bad, no way," coach Rick Tocchet replied when asked if he had ever experienced anything like it.
A consequence of the injuries is the number of players who have suited up. With RW Brandon Bochenski up from AHL Norfolk, Tampa Bay is at 49, a league high and four off the team record set in (no surprise) 1999-2000. It is six off the NHL record set by the Bruins in 1991-92.
What caused the injuries? Bad luck, for sure. But Tocchet blamed in part the team's general lack of puck possession.
"Hopefully, next year our team will definitely change in that we will not be defending all the time," he said. "If you're defending all the time, that's when you get hurt."
No surprise, then, the defense has been hit so hard. Paul Ranger and Andrej Meszaros saw their seasons end in early February because of shoulder injuries. Cory Murphy (foot) and Marek Malik (ankle) also seem done, and three other defensemen have missed at least six games.
The result: The blue line has lost 132 man-games to injury, and 20 defensemen have suited up. "That's the stuff that's unheard of," Tocchet said. "I hope it's resilience for next year."
ROSTER MOVES: Bochenski was called up in response to Smaby's injury. Tampa Bay wanted to look at Bochenski, who has 27 goals, 53 points in 69 games for the Admirals. LW David Koci was the sixth defensemen against Ottawa.
"It's a game-by-game thing," Tocchet said of how long a look he'll give Bochenski, on a one-way contract next season.
FAN APPRECIATION: Owner Oren Koules and GM Brian Lawton spent about an hour before the game answering questions from several hundred invited ex-season ticket holders.
Most interesting was Lawton saying he didn't do Tocchet any favors with the interim label he still has, though his intentions were good. "I could have helped Rick out without the interim tag, but I didn't want him to face a lot of pressure when he started," Lawton said.
ODDS AND ENDS: Malik and F Paul Szczechura (lower body) also were scratched.