Tampa Bay Lightning's Steve Downie might play tonight; David Hale out; Kurtis Foster questionable

Lightning wing Steve Downie might play tonight against Buffalo. He had swelling in his right knee and was limping.

Associated Press

Lightning wing Steve Downie might play tonight against Buffalo. He had swelling in his right knee and was limping.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Lightning right wing Steve Downie finally watched video Friday of the knee-to-knee hit he took the night before from Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman and declared, "I didn't like it."

"I had him beat," Downie added. "It was the last play he had, so it was a two-on-one going the other way."

Said coach Rick Tocchet about the hit that took one of his best players out of the game early in the third period:

"I'm not saying Wideman tried to do it. It's a reaction. But he has to be responsible, and the NHL will probably take a look at it."

Tampa Bay's medical staff had plenty to look at Friday, and the news was mixed, though Downie said he might be able to play tonight against the Sabres at HSBC Arena.

But defenseman David Hale, hurt in Thursday's first period, has a walking boot on his right leg and is out. And defenseman Kurtis Foster, whose head hit the glass in the second period because of a check from behind by wing Shawn Thornton, "didn't feel good at practice," Tocchet said, and is questionable.

Expect defenseman Mattias Ohlund, out eight games with a sprained left ankle, to get back in the lineup, as well as defenseman Matt Smaby, scratched the past four games.

Do not expect any callups from AHL Norfolk.

What to expect from Downie? It is not as if the 20-goal scorer and team leader at plus-16 is 100 percent. He did not practice Friday, walked with a limp, said there was some swelling in his right knee. But the day-to-day improvement was enough that the team did not believe testing immediately was necessary.

If Downie does play, it will be a huge boost for a team that, with two straight wins, including the 5-3 survival test against Boston, is kind of, sort of back in the playoff race.

Tampa Bay (30-32-12) is 11th in the East, but with 72 points is just six behind the eighth-place Bruins for the final postseason berth. Still, the task is daunting.

With eight games left, the best the Lightning can do is 88 points. The Bruins (33-28-12) need to go just 5-3-1 in their final nine games to get to 89.

Add the Thrashers and Rangers, ninth and 10th in the East, respectively — both of which Tampa Bay also has to jump in the standings — and the odds get even longer.

Still, center Zenon Konopka declared, "If we run the table, we make the playoffs."

Said Downie: "We can't afford to lose one."

Considering that Tampa Bay's longest winning streak this season is four games, winning its next eight, which would top off a 10-game streak, seems a lot to ask.

But Konopka in 2007-08 played for AHL Syracuse, which won its final 15 games to go from out of the playoffs to a second seed.

"It's something where you take it game-by-game," he said. "You can't look in the future. You have to look at (tonight), and win that game and go to the next game."

"As long as there is light at the end of the tunnel," Tocchet said. "There are so many good stories in sports, against the odds, and there have been teams with slim chances of doing it and they get there. So, you never know."

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steve Downie might play tonight; David Hale out; Kurtis Foster questionable 03/26/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 27, 2010 9:23am]

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