BRANDON — Lightning D Mattias Ohlund and his balky right knee will start the season on injured reserve, GM Steve Yzerman said Monday, freeing up a roster spot as the team makes its final cuts today to get to the maximum 23 players.
Before those decisions are finalized, the team will wait for a report on C Dominic Moore, who, like Ohlund, had an MRI exam Monday. Moore's problem is a sore back.
"It's more a precaution," Yzerman said. "We're going to get it checked out and make sure we're not missing anything."
Whatever is found, the door has opened further for RW Brett Connolly to make the team. Because he is junior-eligible, Connolly, 19, can play nine NHL games before he must be sent back to juniors or have the clock start on his three-year, $2.7 million contract.
Tampa Bay has 25 players on the roster, if you do not count minor-league D Scott Jackson, rehabilitating after knee surgery. Assuming Moore is healthy, two cuts likely are coming among the remaining 15 forwards.
Also on the bubble are Dana Tyrell, Blair Jones and, perhaps, Tom Pyatt. Of that group, Tyrell does not need waivers to be sent to the minors.
As for Ohlund, Yzerman said he will be on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday. IR is for a minimum seven days, so Ohlund is eligible to come off for Friday's season opener at Carolina. But Yzerman said Ohlund will be sidelined for at least one game even if the MRI exam shows no damage.
"Instead of racing him back, we want to give him a few days off ice to get some work in," Yzerman said. "If he responds favorably, he'll get back on the ice and go through a slow progression to get him ready to go."
"We'll take it day-by-day," Ohlund said at the Ice Sports Forum. "I don't know what the long term is. … Hopefully, I'll get back on the ice in the middle of the week."
MALONE SPARED: The league did not discipline W Ryan Malone for Saturday's third-period head shot on Montreal's Chris Campoli, and Malone said, "I would have been upset if there was."
"I thought it was a clean hit," said Malone, who received a major penalty and a game misconduct for the blow delivered with his shoulder.
"I was on route to make a hit, and he leaned forward a little. … That's a hit you have to make, and a guy had his head down. It's not like I intentionally tried to injure him."
League disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, who has suspended nine players this season for head hits, told NHL.com the Malone ruling was challenging and the angle of Campoli's head was the difference.
"In the end, we felt that Malone had committed to the hit when Campoli was upright," Shanahan said. "However, when the contact was made, Campoli's head position significantly changed just prior to the hit.
"There are elements about the hit we don't like, specifically, the principal point of contact being the head and that it was not a full-body check. But the overriding factor in our judgment was that Campoli's loss of the puck and subsequent bending forward for it contributed significantly, if not entirely, to those elements."
Campoli told Montreal reporters he was surprised by the decision and called the hit dangerous.
"It's a hockey hit; that's what happened," Malone said. "We're allowed to hit each other, and that's the fun part about it."
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Whether Connolly starts the season with Tampa Bay or is sent back to Prince George of the junior Western league, he said he believes he proved he can play in the NHL.
"I made a good impression," said Connolly, who ended preseason with a team-best three goals and tied for the lead with five points. "For me, to come here and perform the way I did will be good for me long term."
"He's proven he has a good work ethic," Yzerman said. "He's matured a lot. We all really like his skills and hockey sense, so we project him to be a very good NHL player."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.