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Injured Lightning players will get time to heal

Ondrej Palat, on the move in a Dec. 3 game, misses a fifth straight game Friday with an undisclosed injury.
Ondrej Palat, on the move in a Dec. 3 game, misses a fifth straight game Friday with an undisclosed injury.
Published Dec. 24, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lightning coach Jon Cooper was hoping LW Ondrej Palat (undisclosed injury) would return for Friday's game at Washington, but Palat missed his fifth consecutive game.

"Christmas did not come early for us," Cooper said before the 4-0 loss.

The four-day Christmas break that begins today should give some, if not all, the injured Lightning players listed as day to day a chance to heal and return to the lineup when the season resumes Wednesday against visiting Montreal.

The list includes RW Ryan Callahan (12 games missed/hip injury), RW Nikita Kucherov (six games/lower body), C Cedric Paquette (two games/lower body) and C Vladislav Namestnikov (two games/illness).

"Whether it's one player or five, I think eventually we'll get one of those forwards back," Cooper said. "It's too early now, especially with some of the injuries they have. If you rush them back it might hurt them down the road, so we got to wait."

KRISTERS DEBUTS: With Ben Bishop out, G Andrei Vasilevskiy started Friday at the Capitals, playing both ends of a back-to-back for the first time this season.

Cooper said G Kristers Gudlevskis, called up when Bishop was injured Tuesday, will get some starts. But with the Lightning off until Wednesday and with Vasilevskiy not overworked this season, Cooper felt Vasilevskiy (who played nearly 48 minutes Tuesday in place of Bishop) could handle playing twice in two nights.

"Bish is gone for a while, so we'll have to manage what's going to happen here," Cooper said. "You look at this as a back-to-back, but we get four days off, so there's breathing room here. Vasi has played this year, but it wasn't like he's been playing every single night, so it's not like he's tired. He's a young kid, he can handle it. He's probably been looking for this kind of opportunity."

Gudlevskis made his debut when he replaced Vasilevskiy in the third period after LF Marcus Johansson's goal made it 4-0 Caps.

HEAVY WORKLOAD: LW Michael Bournival played his third hockey game in three nights Friday and his sixth in eight days.

The increased workload was the result of his being called from AHL Syracuse after Wednesday's game.

"I think when you have a chance to be in the NHL, I think there's nothing that's going to stop you to bring energy," Bournival said after scoring a goal in Thursday's come-from-behind win against the Blues. "It's a great feeling to be back in this league."

That was Bournival's first NHL goal since February 2015, having dealt with concussion issues the past year-and-a-half while with Montreal. The Lightning signed him over the summer.

It was a big goal, tying the score at 2-2 in the Lightning's 5-2 win.

Bournival was part of an unlikely fourth line, teaming with J.T. Brown and defenseman Nikita Nesterov, who played forward for the first time in the NHL. The trio was key cogs in stopping the Blues' line with Vladimir Tarasenko, matching up with them with three minutes left and protecting a two-goal lead.

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Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.


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