The Tampa Bay Lightning received what GM Steve Yzerman called "a blow, for sure," when it announced captain Vinny Lecavalier will be out indefinitely. Officially, he has an upper-body injury, but Lecavalier was seen on Tuesday leaving the players lounge at the Tampa Bay Times Forum wearing a soft cast around his right hand/wrist, leading to assumptions he could have a fractured bone.
"It's real disappointing," Lecavalier said. "We're making a push and we're playing well. It's too bad I can't help my teammates."
Lecavalier said he is not exactly sure how the injury occurred, though it did happen during Saturday's 2-1 win against the Capitals. Lecavalier said he felt some discomfort after the game. An MRI exam on Monday revealed the injury.
"The test showed no gray areas," Lecavalier said.
"We've been getting slaps all year, so why change now?" coach Guy Boucher said.
The Lightning recalled center Trevor Smith from AHL Norfolk, but Boucher said filling Lecavalier's spot in the lineup — he has 21 goals, 46 points in 58 games, plays on the first power-play unit and averages 19:04 of ice time — will be done "by committee."
"Stamkos and St. Louis will sleep on the ice, that's obvious," Boucher said of Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. "But we still have to manage it so they're able to maintain 60 minutes of solid play."
Making things more difficult is that center Dominic Moore was traded last week to the Sharks.
"The lineup is thinner and the danger is always the other team wears you out," Boucher said. "You have to manage your top guys and third- and fourth-liners in a way that we get energy but at the same time we don't get worn down come the third period."
Tonight's game against the Ducks at home begins an important four-game stretch for the Lightning, which is six points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and just seven behind the first-place Panthers in the Southeast Division.
Yzerman has said if the team stays in the playoff hunt through these four games (three of which are on the road) he might change his strategy leading to Monday's trade deadline. He would not turn into a buyer but would let the players he has make a run at the postseason. Lecavalier's injury, in and of itself, will not change his approach, Yzerman said.
"This is the part of the year you want to be part of something and be with the guys every single game," Lecavalier said. "Every game is a playoff game so you want to be part of that. Unfortunately, I won't be able to. It's frustrating. It's part of the game. It happens."
Other stuff from the morning skate: There was a scary moment when right wing Steve Downie, going full speed, ran into and flipped over defenseman Victor Hedman, who had lost an edge and fallen. Downie hit the ice hard and was shaken up enough he sat on the bench for a while and then went with a trainer to get checked. Hedman said he is okay. Downie was not available for comment, but Boucher said he is fine as well. ... Defenseman Branden Mikkelson, drafted 31st overall in 2005 by the Ducks, faces Anaheim for the first time. "There's definitely that familiarity there," Mikkelson said. "I still know most of the guys on that team fairly well. You definitely want to play well and there's a little bit inside you that wants to show what they gave up I guess you could say. You definitely want to show you're a player. It's just a personal pride thing. But at the same time you can't get clouded by that. I still have to focus on the same things I've been trying to focus on every game."