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Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier (knuckle) returns against New York Islanders

Vinny Lecavalier, wearing a splint to aide his injured right-hand knuckle, plays 17:24 and finishes with two shots and no points.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Vinny Lecavalier, wearing a splint to aide his injured right-hand knuckle, plays 17:24 and finishes with two shots and no points.

TAMPA — Vinny Lecavalier sat in front of his locker, a big bag of ice wrapped around the injured knuckle on his right index finger.

The Lightning captain had 17:24 of ice time against the Islanders on Thursday, took two shots, won 8 of 19 faceoffs and said he was none the worse for wear.

"It felt pretty strong," Lecavalier said. "Wrist shots were pretty good. Obviously, it's not 100 percent, but it felt pretty good."

The decision to let Lecavalier play wasn't made until after warmups, and coach Guy Boucher said he got a "green light" from the medical staff that the center would not damage the joint further by playing.

"If there was (potential to make it worse), he wouldn't have been playing," Boucher said. "It would have been my decision not to play him."

"I don't want the same thing happening that happened to (Dominic) Moore," Boucher added about the center who returned too early in training camp from a groin strain and was sidelined two additional weeks. "We're playing again (today), we're playing again Sunday, so I want to be cautious of that one."

A splint taped between his index and middle fingers increased the index finger's functionality "10 times," said Lecavalier, who was injured Saturday, missed one game but previously had not worn the splint.

"It was a huge difference in my shot," he said. "It's still a little bit weak, but (Wednesday) I couldn't even lift the puck."

OHLUND UP: D Mattias Ohlund (knee), yet to play a regular-season game, did one-on-one puck battles during the morning skate. Even so, Boucher said Ohlund won't play until at least Wednesday against the Penguins.

WELCOME BACK: Former Lightning Zenon Konopka played his first game against Tampa Bay since leaving last summer as a free agent.

"It was definitely special to come in and get a win tonight," said the center, who had 33 fights last season and a team-record and league-high 265 penalty minutes. "Nobody wants to win here more than me."

Konopka, 29, entered Thursday tied for the league lead with three fights. He also has won 65.3 percent of his faceoffs, continuing a trend from last season, in which he won 62.3 percent.

"He's a meat-and-potatoes guy," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "With the emphasis on speed and skill in the game, it's nice to see a guy like Z can play that old-school hockey, when he's in your face and keeping the opposition on their toes."

For the complete interview with Konopka, go to tampabay.com/blogs/lightning.

ON THE OTHER HAND: Tampa Bay's Sean Bergenheim played his first game against his former team and shrugged. "I haven't given much thought about it," said the left wing, who spent five seasons in New York. "I live in the moment, and I enjoy it here so much right now, what has been in the past is in the past."

ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning said it sold about 9,000 season tickets and equivalents, a 20 percent jump from last season's approximately 7,500. … Tampa Bay has not lost in regulation at home to the Islanders in 11 straight games (8-0-3) … LW Mattias Ritola and D Mike Vernace also were scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier (knuckle) returns against New York Islanders 10/21/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 22, 2010 7:48am]
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