Tampa Bay Lightning wing Stephane Veilleux takes skate blade to the helmet but avoids injury

BOSTON — Lightning RW Stephane Veilleux avoided a serious injury during Monday's game with the Avalanche, when the skate blade of tumbling teammate Steven Stamkos hit him on the side of the head.

"On the helmet," Veilleux said. "It could have been a scary moment."

The play occurred when Stamkos was checked by Colorado's Kyle Quincey over the boards into the Tampa Bay bench. Stamkos said he was more or less sitting on the side boards when hit.

"I don't know if it's just me, but when I see someone trying to hit me, I kind of jump," Stamkos said. "So I jumped, and I was kind of sitting on the ledge. He just pushed me, and I somersaulted over the boards. Luckily no one got a skate in the face."

Veilleux, who was on the bench, said it was close but added, "It's part of the game. In hockey, sometimes, there are unpredictable things that are happening. You have to be ready for anything."

SMABY YES: D Matt Smaby opened with a joke.

"It's been a long training camp," he said about his first NHL game of the season.

Signed last summer to a two-year deal, Smaby had a poor training camp, coach Rick Tocchet said, and was buried on the depth chart.

Smaby had three conditioning assignments with AHL Norfolk but was hurt twice (upper back and finger) and played just seven games.

"I'm excited to be in," said Smaby, who replaced David Hale, who was scratched. "I've been ready for this for a while."

As for pressure to prove himself, he said, "I want to put myself in a position where they can't take me out of the lineup, so there's that kind of pressure. But if I let that affect my game, I'm probably not going to play as well as I'd like. It's a fine line between being real intense and pushing myself too far."

Smaby got 11:23 of ice time but played just two third-period shifts as Tampa Bay, desperate for offense, moved Kurtis Foster from wing back to the blue line.

BLUE LINE ROTATION: Tocchet said he would rather use a consistent six-man unit, but with eight defensemen on the roster, he could rotate.

"If somebody is playing real well, they're going to stay in," he said. "It's the same with the forwards. We can't afford passengers. If they're not ready to go, they won't play against Jersey" on Friday.

HAPPY RETURN: Assistant Adam Oates was in Boston for the first time as a coach and called the city "a fantastic sports town and a great place to live."

Oates spent six seasons with the Bruins, including a career-best 1992-93 with 45 goals and 142 points. But Oates said his best memory is of 1993-94, when he centered for Cam Neeley, who reached 50 goals in 44 games.

"It's a blue-collar town, and they believe in their athletes," Oates said. "It was definitely a lot of fun to play here."

ODDS AND ENDS: Bruins C Marc Savard scored his 200th NHL goal. … Norfolk signed Justin Keller for the season after the left wing, on a pro tryout contract, had five goals and seven points in 23 games. … LW Todd Fedoruk was scratched.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning wing Stephane Veilleux takes skate blade to the helmet but avoids injury 12/02/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 3, 2009 8:54am]

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