When the Lightning on Monday announced that captain Vinny Lecavalier had successful surgery to fix the fractured big knuckle of his right index finger, it put his recovery time at four to five weeks.
That is a week longer than originally speculated, but at least there is an expected end point. Less certain is an end point for an annoying spate of injuries and illnesses that have depleted the team and forced creative lineups.
"I don't know what to attribute it to," center Dominic Moore said. "It's just one of those things where it seems like there's a bunch in a row."
At one point during the recent western road trip, nine players were hurt or sick enough to be questionable to play.
In games last week against the Maple Leafs, Capitals and Penguins, Tampa Bay, because of injuries, was without three of its top six forwards — Lecavalier, Simon Gagne and Steve Downie.
And while the Lightning's 35 man-games lost to injury or illness is in the middle of the league, several players kept playing while not healthy, and you have to wonder how the cumulative effect of the maladies played into a 1-5-1 swoon in which the team has been outscored 24-13.
Wings Marty St. Louis (badly bruised left big toe), Steve Downie (back) and Sean Bergenheim (foot), center Nate Thompson (knee) and defensemen Brett Clark (wrist) and Victor Hedman (foot) have played hurt.
Wings Mattias Ritola, Dana Tyrell and Ryan Malone, defenseman Matt Smaby and goalie Dan Ellis have played with gastro-intestinal disorders that made it tough to keep down food.
"The thing to keep an eye on with illnesses … is dehydration," head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said. "Your muscles cramp, and you fatigue a lot quicker."
Keep an eye on ice time as well, especially with Lecavalier out. Between his average 18:35 and Gagne's 17:46, 36:21 has to be absorbed somehow.
How the players handle the extra work and inevitable energy drain might be telling.
Even so, Moore said, "It's hard to say if there is a cumulative effect. It's kind of the nature of a hockey season. Sometimes it seems like things come in waves and you can't buy a break, and it's easy to get discouraged.
"But the group we have here doesn't see things that way. If anything we're treating the obstacles as a challenge and an opportunity to improve. It's kind of like life. If you don't face a challenge, how are you going to toughen yourself up?"
Gagne, out 11 games with a neck injury, at least is skating again, though not practicing.
Lecavalier needs time, too, after Cleveland Clinic orthopedic surgeon Thomas Graham, who fixed Dan Boyle's sliced wrist tendons in November 2007, stabilized the nondisplaced fracture in Lecavalier's knuckle with a plate and screws.
Best-case scenario, Lecavalier is back in mid December, halfway through a grueling stretch that includes playing 15 of 21 games, and 25 of 40, on the road.
"We're going to go through this battling, that's for sure, 100 percent," coach Guy Boucher said. "Our fans are going to be proud of our guys."
In the meantime, send get well cards.
MINOR MOVE: F Marc-Antoine Pouliot was reassigned to AHL Norfolk.