Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning's injuries point out need for depth

TAMPA — The Lightning has become a good advertisement for why organizations need depth.

With RW Dana Tyrell out with an unspecified lower-body injury sustained Sunday against the Penguins, Tampa Bay has seven injured players who otherwise would be playing.

That has put coach Guy Boucher in a tough spot.

"Day-to-day," he said, "we just need to figure out who is replacing who in what roles."

There also is the matter of healthy players taking on extra minutes.

"So, it's not necessarily managing X's and O's," Boucher said, "but managing rest."

"That's why you need a good minor-league system," assistant Dan Lacroix said. "Going through all these injuries, we need the youth and enthusiasm these guys can bring."

Rebuilding organizational depth has been a priority for GM Steve Yzerman. Last season AHL Norfolk made the playoffs for the first time in four years as a Tampa Bay affiliate and should make it this season, too.

During this stretch of injuries, J.T. Wyman, Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Trevor Smith have been called up. Also on the roster is D Brendan Mikkelson, who was acquired from the Flames for C Blair Jones and had spent this season in the minors.

"It's kind of like a reward for the guys who have been playing well down there," Lacroix said. "Now you have guys who have an opportunity to come up and make plays."

The latest is Smith, 26, who leads the Admirals with 44 points on 16 goals and 28 assists.

"It's definitely exciting," Smith said "You get the call like that and it's good. You get an opportunity here and just try to earn my keep."

MORE SMITH: Lacroix likes Smith's versatility.

"He's just a good player," said Lacroix, who coached Smith with the Islanders organization. "He can play on the power play and kill penalties. He can do a little bit of everything."

Smith, who on Tuesday had 4:53 of ice time with one shot and two hits in his eighth NHL game, spoke broadly about his success in Norfolk.

"The way we play in the offensive zone, everyone is on the same page," he said. "Everyone knows where the puck is going. We play a simple style, get pucks to the net and get a lot of shots. When you play in that system you know where the guys are going to go. You know where the puck is going to be, so it's a lot easier to play."

MEDICAL MATTERS: MRI exams on Tyrell and D Marc-Andre Bergeron (back) showed no significant damage and that the injuries can heal with time and treatment, Boucher said. … Forwards Ryan Shannon (knee) and Wyman wore red no-contact jerseys at the morning skate. … Tyrell, Bergeron and D Victor Hedman (concussion) skated by themselves.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning's 1-0 lead was only the ninth it carried out of the first period this season. … Rays pitcher David Price was at the game and got an ovation when shown on the scoreboard. … Former Lightning Brandon Bochenski will play in Saturday's All-Star Game for Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. He has 18 goals, 40 points in 36 games for Astana.

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