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Lecavalier will sit out 2 preseason games

Center hyperextends his left elbow in a collision with the boards during a Lightning intrasquad game.

For one horrifying moment, the Lightning saw its season flash before its eyes.

Vinny Lecavalier, considered a lock to become one of the NHL's next superstars, slammed into the end boards and crumpled to the ice Wednesday during an intrasquad game at the Ice Sports Forum.

As the play moved on, Lecavalier stayed down.

The nearly 100 fans who were watching, Lecavalier's 42 teammates and Lightning management held their breath.

"You could hear a pin drop," right wing Dan Kesa said.

After a few agonizing minutes, Lecavalier got to his feet and slowly skated off the ice under his own power. Head medical trainer Dave Boyer said Lecavalier hyperextended his left elbow.

He stressed it is not serious.

"This is very common with these guys," Boyer said. "I see this all the time. In two days, he should be fine."

Still, he said Lecavalier will wear a sling for those days, and coach Steve Ludzik said the 20-year-old center will sit out the Lightning's first two preseason games against the Hurricanes Saturday in Estero and Sunday at the Ice Palace.

"He wanted to play Sunday for the home fans, but we're going to play it safe," Ludzik said.

Lecavalier, who was selectedcaptain March 11 and had team highs last season of 25 goals, 42 assists and 67 points, was playing all out.

With about 18 minutes remaining in the game, he flew down the right boards and bore down on goaltender Dan Cloutier.

Lecavalier leaned left, sliced in front of the goal and got tangled with defenseman Cory Sarich and wing Todd Warriner, who was attacking from the opposite side.

Lecavalier spun. His arm twisted between bodies. He fell backward, and his helmet flew off just before he hit the boards, creating a concern his head took the brunt of the punishment.

But as Lecavalier skated off the ice, he held his arm.

"I was like this," said Ludzik, who made his eyes bug out. "First at the move he made, then at the falling down."

"It was nothing," Lecavalier said before entering the training room for treatment. "It should be stiff, but it's fine."

That was good news for Sarich, who stood over the fallen Lecavalier immediately after the crash, hands outstretched, to make sure nobody thought he was the cause.

"I didn't want to be responsible for that," he said. "That would be an instant ticket home."

With a favorable diagnosis confirmed, Warriner joked, "If he had passed (the puck) over, he wouldn't have fallen."

Lecavalier originally said he would be ready for today's practice, but he was overruled.

"Obviously, we're going to treat him cautiously because we have to," Boyer said. "But I'm not worried about it."

General manager Rick Dudley, who did not see the incident, saw a silver lining. He said Lecavalier will be able to get a breather after five consecutive days of intrasquad games and practices.

"He's sore," Dudley said. "Maybe he needs a couple of days off. Sometimes these things are good."

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