Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund will play his first game of the regular-season tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Out because of swelling and fluid on his right knee, Ohlund has been cleared to play but agreed there are concerns about not yet being in game shape, especially against a quick and talented Penguins team.
"I think I skated four or five times the last three and a half weeks," he said. "But I feel good enough to play, and I think the emotions and excitement, hopefully, will carry me through the first few games until I get my game conditioning back."
Other notes from today's morning skate:
— Left wing Simon Gagne had an MRI exam on Tuesday at University Community Hospital which coach Guy Boucher said confirmed Gagne does not have a concussion. That is an important distinction as concussions have plagued Gagne during his career. Gagne sustained a stiff neck Thursday when checked into the side boards by the Islanders' Michael Grabner and will miss his third straight game tonight. He also is on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, meaning he can come off on Friday, Oct. 29, though that seems unlikely, especially since the team doesn't play again until Saturday.
— With Gagne on IR, center Blair Jones was called up from AHL Norfolk. This is the seventh time over the course of his career, Jones has been called up from the minors. Will it stick this time? "I hope so," Jones said. "I put in a lot of pretty hard work down there, and it's paid off so far. Hopefully, I have a chance to get into a game and see what I can do." Boucher said Jones, 24, was "very close" to making the team out of training camp because of his "work ethic and desire to be first on puck." Funny, Boucher, said, "I didn't make the decision to bring him up. I just asked for the hardest-working guy down there, and he showed up."
— Other players out tonight are center Dominic Moore (groin) and/or defensemen Brett Clark (wrist) and Matt Smaby (stomach virus).
— With Moore and Gagne out, putting together new line combinations will be tough for Boucher who said he has ended the experiment with Gagne, center Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone. "It didn't click offensively," Boucher said. Pairing Lecavalier with left wing Sean Bergenheim seems to have promise. And Malone and Moore seem a good pair, though with Moore out, the lines are really in flux. One thing is for sure, Tampa Bay needs a bit more from it's second-line guys such as Lecavalier (two goals, two assists) and Malone (one goal, four assists). Gagne, too, of course, with zero points, though it is unclear when he will get back on the ice.