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Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrej Meszaros plays with 64 stitches

ATLANTA — Not that he will ever order it at a restaurant, but Andrej Meszaros said pasta and chicken blended to a mashed potato-like paste isn't all that bad.

"A little cold," the Lightning defenseman said of the concoction whipped up for him Sunday by the team hotel's kitchen. "I got the protein inside me and the carbs I needed for the game."

It probably will be a while before Meszaros is on solid food after getting 64 stitches Saturday to close multiple wounds caused by a shot in the face from Carolina's Anton Babchuk.

Wearing a full-cage mask and on mild pain medication, Meszaros played 25:38 against the Thrashers, blocked a shot and was plus-1. It was his 285th consecutive game since the start of his four-year career.

"I wanted to help the team," Meszaros, 23, said. "I knew we had a couple of guys banged up. I said I wanted to play every game if it's possible. It's not like it's a broken arm or leg. You have to suck it up and go."

Trainer Tommy Mulligan said Meszaros' injury is among the top three on his personal gruesome meter with Jassen Cullimore's 70-stitch face gash in the 2003 playoffs and Craig MacDonald losing nine teeth last season when hit by a puck.

"We knew it was pretty bad right away," Mulligan said. "He lost feeling there right away because the nerves in that area were cut."

He said Meszaros received stitches outside and inside his top lip, in his gum line and on the roof of his mouth. Thanks to his mouth guard, Mulligan said, he lost zero teeth.

"He played really well," coach Rick Tocchet said. "Here's a 23-year-old kid who told me he wanted to play (Saturday) night. That's leadership to me. That's a big step for Mez on the leadership ladder."

NUMBERS GAME: Give Lukas Krajicek credit, too. The defenseman, who missed three games with a finger injury, played a season-high 24 minutes and blocked two shots. Had he not played, the Lightning, for the second straight game, would have started three rookies on the blue line.

MOVES: Rookie defensemen Ty Wishart and Vladimir Mihalik, who earned his first point Sunday, are going back to AHL Norfolk. That means D Paul Ranger, out three games with an upper-body injury, likely will return Thursday at Phoenix.

ODDS AND ENDS: Steve Emin­ger's goal was Tampa Bay's seventh from the blue line, more than only Buffalo's five. … Wishart and F Paul Szczechura, who said a lingering left leg injury acted up, also were scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrej Meszaros plays with 64 stitches 01/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 4:49pm]

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