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Tampa Bay Lightning top defenseman Eric Brewer still deals with back injury

BRANDON — Picture a hose, Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer said.

Step on it, and it kinks. The longer you step on it, the longer it takes to regain its shape and water can flow freely.

The Lightning defenseman made the analogy Sunday at the Ice Sports Forum to explain why, two years after his second surgery on a herniated disc in his back, he still has a "pins and needles" feeling down his right leg.

"It's died down, and I can manage it a bit better," Brewer said. "I just have that one nerve path that's still pinching."

Coach Guy Boucher said he did not know Brewer still felt the effects of the injury that required surgeries in December 2008 and April 2009. That is because Brewer does not talk about it without prompting. He also has been Tampa Bay's best defenseman since being acquired in February from the Blues.

He solidified that in Game 2 of the East quarterfinals with a goal and three points in the Lightning's 5-1 victory that tied the best-of-seven series with the Penguins at one game apiece.

"Do you have a half-hour?" Boucher joked when asked about Brewer's impact. "Big guy with a long reach, and when you can move like that, you create space for yourself and your partner."

"He gets the puck, and he's confident and patient with it," said Mike Lundin, who has been Brewer's partner. "He's always talking, always calm. That helps calm the rest of us down."

Brewer, who turned 32 Sunday, also is measured talking about an injury that reports at the time in St. Louis called career-threatening.

"That was a bit much," the former Blues captain said. "At no point was I told it was going to be career-threatening.

"It certainly was career-delaying."

Brewer said the December 2008 injury resulted from wear-and-tear and the herniated disc basically splattered material onto the sciatic nerve, causing it to pinch.

Brewer wasn't cleared to rehab until June 2009 and two months later had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee that delayed his return until late October. He played 59 games in 2009-10 after just 28 the season before.

"I try not to think about it a whole lot," Brewer added. "But there certainly are days I look back and go, 'Holy smokes! It's come a long way.' "

Brewer, 6 feet 3, 220 pounds, still does between 30 and 60 minutes of exercises and stretching before every practice and game to strengthen his core.

"Stomach, lower back, the whole trunk area to keep anything from flaring up," Lightning head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said.

Brewer had a goal and an assist and was plus-5 in 22 games after the trade. His three points are tied for the team playoff lead, and his average 24:35 of ice time leads by almost two minutes.

"We've just got to wear him down," Penguins right wing Arron Asham said of the Game 3 strate­gy tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. "He's a big guy. We have to chip the puck behind him and wear him down."

Getting the puck past Brewer is not easy. He did not get an assist on Vinny Lecavalier's Game 2 goal but began the sequence that led to it by batting down at the blue line a clearing attempt.

"That was a lucky play," Brewer said.

Or, more likely, skill.

Tampa Bay Lightning top defenseman Eric Brewer still deals with back injury 04/17/11 [Last modified: Sunday, April 17, 2011 10:25pm]
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