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Tampa Bay Lightning's Ryan Malone doesn't need abdominal surgery

TAMPA — The good news about LW Ryan Malone's severe muscle injury in his abdominal area is that it won't require surgery.

The bad news is that coach Guy Boucher said Malone will still be out six to eight weeks, possibly for the rest of the regular season.

Malone's size and skill in front of the net are difficult for the Lightning to replace.

"He's a top-notch player," Boucher said. "You can't replace a top-notch player. I think everybody has got to (bring) some of his assets and some of his qualities, whether it's power play or five-on-five. … You just have to have everybody working extremely hard to find other ways to win the game than the normal way you're doing it."

Malone, like D Mike Lundin (abdomen), was placed on injured reserve Saturday, giving the Lightning roster flexibility.

Malone, 6 feet 4, 219 pounds, has scored 11 goals while playing a pivotal role on the power play and five-on-five. Boucher said players such as recently called up LW Johan Harju will get opportunities to step up.

"You can (replace Malone) for a little bit, two weeks or the time he missed, but if it's that long, it's going to be hard," W Simon Gagne said. "Definitely some guys will have to play a little bit more physical … to be that guy making some big hits once in a while."

HEADS UP: Boucher said there's a chance C Nate Thompson could return Tuesday against the Flyers. Thompson has been held out as a precaution since feeling a little woozy after hitting his head against the boards a week ago today against the Blues. Thompson said he is encouraged by how he is improving and said he hasn't been diagnosed with a concussion. "Every day I feel like I'm getting better," he said. "So it's a positive."

Boucher said Thompson, who has been one of the team's top players, brings elements the Lightning "desperately" needs but he will play Tuesday only if he can skate at least once before.

OWNING IT: Recently demoted G Mike Smith, who posted a shutout for AHL Norfolk on Friday, 3-0 over Syracuse, blamed part of his inconsistencies with the Lightning this season on "thinking too much about how to play the game instead of just playing how I can play."

"I'm a good goaltender. I've proven that in the past," he told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. "But this year was one of those times when I thought about the technical side of the game way too much instead of just going out there and playing."

High praise: Boucher praised how well LW Sean Bergenheim and C Dominic Moore played throughout.

"They blocked a lot of shots on the penalty kill, were first to the puck everywhere," he said. "I could put them against the first line every time."

Speaking of blocking shots, D Randy Jones blocked a team-high four, all in the third.

"(Jones) was incredible," Boucher said. "He blocked shots and paid the price."

Miscellany: D Brett Clark's career-best five-game point streak (one goal, four assists) ended. … The Lightning has won eight of its past 10 games. … Bergenheim played his 300th game. … RW Steve Downie was called for boarding and charging during the first 5:32 of Saturday's game.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Ryan Malone doesn't need abdominal surgery 02/12/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 13, 2011 12:00am]

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