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Flu bug creates problems for Tampa Bay Lightning

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Published Mar. 2, 2012

TAMPA — Lightning coach Guy Boucher was so sick with the flu during Tuesday's game with the Canadiens, he brought a bucket with him behind the bench … just in case.

Defenseman Brendan Mikkelson threw up so violently this week, "I thought I was going to break a rib."

So rampant was the flu running through the team, defenseman Eric Brewer on Tuesday wore a surgical mask to all pregame meetings.

"I would have worn it on the ice," he said, "but I think it would have melted on my face."

Given the general close quarters (in locker rooms and on planes), sports teams are petri dishes to begin with. But never, Lightning players and coaches said, had they experienced such a fast-moving and wicked bug.

Eleven in the organization were stricken: five players, three coaches, general manager Steve Yzerman and his two assistants.

"That's probably one of the worst I've seen," right wing Teddy Purcell said. "I couldn't even pass a bathroom. I couldn't even take a sip of water. Hopefully, that's the first and last of the year."

Mikkelson and center Nate Thompson missed Tuesday's game. Both expect to be fine tonight against the Rangers, and head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said the outbreak seems to have subsided.

Boucher, though, still was fighting the bug Thursday and did not attend practice.

The common denominator in all cases, Mulligan said, was being on Sunday night's flight home from Newark, N.J., after the 4-3 victory over the Devils.

Food poisoning from the in-flight meals was ruled out because it took 24-36 hours for symptoms to manifest.

To minimize the spread, affected personnel were kept away from the rink, hand washing was stressed as was the use of individual water bottles and towels. Wednesday's practice was canceled, and the team scrubbed the weight room.

It also used in the locker room and players' lounge a machine that cleans the air and reduces bacteria and viruses on hard surfaces.

"You try not to touch the other guys too much," said defenseman Mike Commodore, who did not join the team until Tuesday, after he was acquired from the Red Wings, and is flu-free. "Not much shaking hands or patting on the back. They have those sheets around here to wash your hands. Use soap and hope for the best."

What happened to assistant coach Marty Raymond wasn't the worst, but it wasn't pleasant.

Sent home before Tuesday's morning skate, Raymond didn't get far before he pulled into a parking lot to throw up.

"There was no way that was staying in," he said. "I got out of the car and found a spot."

"I couldn't even move," Thompson said of his flu, which on a scale of 1 to 10 — with 10 being the worst — he called a 10.

"It's happened on every team I've been on in juniors; the minors, whatever. It's just the way it is. We're around each other every day. It's hard not to pass it on to each other. It's one of those things. You can't stop it. You can only hope to contain it."

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STAMKOS HONORED: Lightning center Steven Stamkos was named the NHL's third star for February behind Coyotes goalie Mike Smith and Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Stamkos had league bests of 11 goals and 22 points.

MINOR Moves: Wing Cory Conacher, 21, AHL Norfolk's leading scorer with 64 points (30 goals and 34 assists) in 57 games, signed two-year, two-way contract. … Forward Mike Angelidis was reassigned to Norfolk.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.