Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning wing Ryan Malone seeks to return from latest injury

BUFFALO, N.Y. — For Ryan Malone, the critical moment of Friday's practice came when he and teammate Marc-Andre Bergeron skated toward the side boards after a puck.

"Battle, 'Bugsy,' battle!" Lightning head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan yelled.

Malone and Bergeron shook the glass with their collision. Malone skated easily away, the best sign yet the left wing had overcome the upper-body injury that has sidelined him for six games.

"It feels good," Malone said later in the locker room. "We'll see how it feels (today) and play it by ear."

Music to Malone's ears would be getting the call for tonight's game with the Sabres at the First Niagara Center. It would make coach Guy Boucher happy, too.

"All I know is I'm a coach," Bou­cher said, "and when is he coming back?"

Coaches have asked that in each of Malone's four seasons with Tampa Bay. In only one, 2008-09, has he played 70 games. He can match that this season if he plays in the team's final 29.

The Lightning, precariously on the edge of the playoff race, could use him.

At 6 feet 4, 219 pounds, the Pittsburgh native, with 10 goals and 27 points in 41 games, brings a physical presence the team otherwise does not have. He plays on the power play and penalty kill, gets to the front of the net and bangs bodies.

But it is Malone's willingness to, as Boucher said, "bring the physicality," that exposes him to harm.

"It's really hard to put into words the kind of player he is, the sacrifices he can make for the team," teammate J.T. Wyman said. "He's willing to do the things that need to be done, sacrifice his body; a true leader."

Malone, 32, has missed 12 games this season. Hip and groin issues and a broken hand slowed him in 2008-09. A knee injury helped limit him to 69 games in 2009-10.

He played only 54 games last season because of groin injuries, and shoulder surgery last summer fixed an injury with which he played the 2011 playoffs.

His current injury might be the most frustrating, Malone said, because it stopped an eight-game stretch in which he had three goals and seven points.

"I thought I was finally playing well and healthy again," he said. "I kind of got going and had a setback. Everything happens for a reason. That's all I can say."

Malone never says much about his injuries. To keep playing, he wouldn't tell his parents he was sick. Once, he had mononucleosis, he said, once pneumonia.

When asked if his current injury is related to any he had previously, Malone said, "I think you can say yes because all the body ties together."

Seriously, though, "it just comes with playing and getting older with the game," he said. "Especially in the playoffs, it's like being in a car crash every night. That's the kind of toll it takes on your body."

Not that Malone would change the way he plays.

"I don't think I would have a job," he said. "Just make sure your body is in good support when you throw your weight around. Other than that, it's hockey. You've got to play hard. I don't know what else to do."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
What’s gone wrong with the Lightning?

What’s gone wrong with the Lightning?

It didn't take the sound of a door slamming in the dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated. Tampa Bay felt like it worked hard – at least, harder than Thursday's listless loss to Vegas – yet dropped anothe...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning said all the right things about needing to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching during its recent funk. Veterans said they had to lead the way. Coach Jon Cooper believed this eight-game trip would "show us wha...
Published: 01/20/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Mikhail Sergachev gets thrown into the fire for Lightning

Mikhail Sergachev gets thrown into the fire for Lightning

ST. PAUL, Minn. — For the first 20-plus games this season, Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness knew "the look" was coming.The other team’s top line would jump over the boards and Tampa Bay rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev would peek over at Bow...
Published: 01/20/18
Missing the Olympics a missed opportunity (and misstep) for NHL?

Missing the Olympics a missed opportunity (and misstep) for NHL?

One week from today, Tampa will be the center of the hockey world.The All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. Players will smile for the cameras. They'll put on a fantastic show. Maybe they'll catch a bead or two from a Gasparilla parade.But you ...
Published: 01/20/18
Andrei Vasilevskiy: ‘I have to be better’

Andrei Vasilevskiy: ‘I have to be better’

The rest of the Lightning players had already left the ice Friday afternoon, heading into the dressing room for a quick change before the team's charter flight to Minnesota.But goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, 23, stayed on late, facing about 15 minutes mo...
Published: 01/20/18
Sunday Conversation: Lightning VP Keith Harris strikes a chord for the Boys & Girls Clubs

Sunday Conversation: Lightning VP Keith Harris strikes a chord for the Boys & Girls Clubs

Keith Harris fondly looks back on some memorable days from his Tampa upbringing when he worked as a lifeguard at a pool next to a Boys & Girls Club. ¶Whenever it rained, he watched as the kids retreated to the safe haven of the club. They entered int...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road … pronto

Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road … pronto

TAMPA — Vegas has left the building.Wasn't the Lightning just arranging place settings for next weekend's NHL All-Star Game party?With that in mind, I headed to the home dressing room at Amalie Arena late Thursday after the Lightning was manhan...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18
Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

SUNRISE — Aaron Ekblad scored 40 seconds into overtime to lift the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the Golden Knights on Friday, spoiling Vegas coach Gerard Gallant’s return to Florida. By gaining a point, Vegas moved within one point of the Lightning...
Published: 01/19/18
Time for Lightning leaders to snap team out of funk

Time for Lightning leaders to snap team out of funk

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Steven Stamkos sat at his stall in a near-empty Lightning dressing room Thursday and did what captains often do:He shouldered some blame for the Lightning's listless 4-1 loss to Vegas."As a leader, I've got to be a lot better,...
Published: 01/19/18
Why I hate the NHL All-Star Game

Why I hate the NHL All-Star Game

TAMPA — The NHL All-Star Game is coming to town next weekend, reaffirming our community's ability to step into the breach when needed. We don't stop until we get the Winter Olympics. So, don't be surprised if those next Rays stadium plans ...
Published: 01/19/18