NEW YORK — The Lightning equipment managers put Marty St. Louis' sticks in the rack for warmups Thursday night.
For the first time in 500 games, they went unused.
Tampa Bay's star right wing would have played his 500th consecutive game against the Rangers. Instead, he was at NYU Medical Center recovering from facial and nasal fractures sustained at the morning skate when hit by a backhand shot from Dominic Moore.
"Probably the biggest blow you can get on our team right now," coach Guy Boucher said.
Even so, the news was relatively good. Though general manager Steve Yzerman said St. Louis was "really swollen and still bleeding" around his left eye, which apparently absorbed some of the blow, preliminary examinations showed no eye damage.
St. Louis, who had four goals in his past six games and has nine goals, 22 points in 27 games, stayed overnight at the hospital with head medical trainer Tommy Mulligan. He was scheduled to return to Tampa today. When the swelling subsides, he will be evaluated by team doctors, Yzerman said.
"Generally, bad things happen at the worst times," Yzerman said. "He's been playing phenomenally. It's a difficult loss for the team, but it's an opportunity for other guys to step up."
Tampa Bay, also without center Nate Thompson (upper body), recalled from AHL Norfolk forward Blair Jones, who played against New York.
St. Louis, 36, who had not missed a game since Nov. 14 and 15, 2005, because of a broken finger, was swinging behind a net when hit by Moore's shot. He threw off his gloves and skated wildly to the bench, blood covering his face, and was helped to the medical room by Mulligan.
"Just bad luck," Moore said. "An errant shot. I missed the net."
The Lightning will miss St. Louis's production, speed, leadership and average 21:31 of ice time.
"You take a guy like St. Louis out of the lineup, you just don't slot a guy in there," Yzerman said. "Pittsburgh was without (Sidney) Crosby for a long time (10 months after his January concussion). Guys came out of nowhere and played really well. That's what we need."