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Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrej Meszaros plays through injuries small and big

The list of injuries defenseman Andrej Meszaros has played with include last season’s fractured jaw and 64 stitches in his lip, gums and tongue resulting from a slap shot to the face.

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The list of injuries defenseman Andrej Meszaros has played with include last season’s fractured jaw and 64 stitches in his lip, gums and tongue resulting from a slap shot to the face.

TAMPA — Andrej Meszaros said he did not sleep at all Thursday night.

He said he couldn't eat and had trouble breathing. Swallowing? An adventure.

"It feels like I've got something stuck in there," he said of his throat. "It's really, really tight, and I can't get anything through."

Even so, the Lightning defenseman said Friday that he plans to play tonight against the Panthers in Tampa Bay's season finale at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"This guy," teammate Zenon Konopka said, "is a warrior."

He also is extremely lucky after taking an Erik Karlsson slap shot off the right side of his throat with 5:13 left in the second period of Thursday's game with the Senators.

But the scary scene — with emergency medical technicians from Tampa Fire Rescue rushing across the ice with a stretcher after Meszaros had difficulty breathing and a headache so bad it forced him to sit in the hallway leading to the locker room — just added to his reputation as one of the game's most indomitable players when he returned to play the third period.

"Taking a shot off the throat and coming back in? That says a lot," coach Rick Tocchet said.

The jury is out as to what was more impressive: that or when Meszaros last season played the next day after a slap shot by the Hurricanes' Anton Babchuk hit him in the face, fractured his maxilla (mustache bone) and opened wounds in his upper lip, gums and tongue that required 64 stitches.

"I was in front of the net, too, and I could hear his face crack when the puck hit him," fellow defenseman Matt Smaby said.

What does it take to get Meszaros out of a game? A torn left shoulder labrum ended his 2008-09 season in February and snapped his streak of 298 consecutive games.

He also was a healthy scratch one game this season.

"I want to play any time I get a chance," Meszaros said. "I want to play all the time. That's the way I am. Little bumps and bruises you can get through. I want to be part of the team and help the team."

Bumps and bruises?

Consider that Tommy Mulligan, the Lightning's head athletic trainer, said if Meszaros had not turned his head to the left in an attempt to get out of the way, Karlsson's shot might have hit him square on the Adam's apple and perhaps damaged his larynx.

The puck still clipped the Adam's apple, but it hit mostly soft tissue, hence the swelling, Mulligan said.

"And that's a small area with air flow," he said. "The way (Meszaros) described it, it was like somebody had a hand around his throat."

"It feels like I'm losing my voice a little bit," Meszaros said. "But the headache went away, and I'm breathing a lot better. It's not 100 percent, but hopefully by (today) it will be all right."

The therapy? Ice.

NHL players have seen just about everything when it comes to injuries, so they can be jaded. But Meszaros' unwillingness to succumb to injuries is impressive, Smaby said:

"If the opportunity is there to come back from anything, he's ready or he's telling them he's ready to go even if they're telling him to wait up a second. It's definitely an old-school mind-set."

It hasn't been the easiest season for Meszaros. He has just six goals and 16 points and is minus-15 in 79 games while averaging 20:10 of ice time. He also has had ongoing puck-possession issues.

But Tocchet said Meszaros' fortitude indicates potential.

"You know the fight and toughness is there," Tocchet said. "It's just the consistency for Mez, if he can find it. With that kind of toughness, there are levels he can get to."

On Friday, the only thing Meszaros wanted to get to was bed to catch up on the sleep he missed Thursday.

Hey, he has a game tonight.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrej Meszaros plays through injuries small and big 04/09/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 9, 2010 10:29pm]
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