Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ryan Malone, who has missed eight games with an undisclosed lower body injury, worked out with the team at Tuesday's morning skate, and coach Guy Boucher said Malone could be back in the lineup "soon."
Boucher did say Malone would not be available for Thursday's game with the Rangers in New York. Malone added he was not sure he would leave with the team on its upcoming four-game road trip, but at least hoped to join the team while it is traveling.
"It's just exciting to get back on the ice with the other guys," Malone said. You always want to be part of the team, so it's nice to be out there with the guys."
Malone was hurt prior to the Feb. 10 game at the Rangers while participating in the team's usual pregame soccer kick-around. Malone said that when he tried to kick the ball, it aggravated an existing condition that had not been serious enough to keep him off the ice.
He has been skating on his own for a bit. Tuesday's skate was his first with the team since the injury. Malone, who has four goals and five points in 10 games, said he will be evaluated Wednesday to see if he is ready for full contact.
Other stuff from the morning skate: Mathieu Garon will get the start in net tonight against the Sabres, not surprising after Anders Lindback's sketchy performance in Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Penguins. Boucher said he is giving Lindback "breathing time. I'm sure he's like everybody else. He's a little tired playing that many games, and now he's going to get a bit more practice time not playing tonight." … Boucher said he was debating whether to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen tonight against Buffalo. … With a four-game road trip coming up, Boucher said the game against the Sabres is important. "There's no time to waste," he said. … Richard Panik's goal scored Saturday against the Hurricanes was still a hot topic in the Lightning locker room. Boucher called it a "sick" goal," and Steven Stamkos said teammates are giving Panik the benefit of the doubt that he meant it to happen. In case you missed it, Panik, at a bad angle against Carolina goalie Dan Ellis, actually flipped the puck over Ellis, swung around the net and backhanded his own pass into the net. "I like to do creativity on the ice," Panik said. "It's just instinct. You don't have much time in games. The games are so fast. I just saw the goalie. He was on his knee. I was at a bad angle so I thought I would do it, and I just flipped it by him. It worked so I was really happy." Panik said he hopes to get a chance during a shootout. … Seems as thought Boucher has found lines that he likes and likely will stick with, though that goes out the window if he decides to go with 11 forwards. Assuming things stay the same you have Benoit Pouliot-Vinny Lecavalier-Marty St. Louis; Cory Conacher-Steven Stamkos-Teddy Purcell; Alex Killorn-Tom Pyatt-Nate Thompson; Richard Panik-Adam Hall-B.J. Crombeen. Boucher is notorious for changing his lines quickly during games but said he might be more patient with lines he likes. And as he said, "I really like the lines I've got now." That said, "To me, it's about work ethic and about paying the price," he added. "If I see one guy who doesn't have that on a line, he's got one chance, and if he's extremely lucky and my eyes are closed he'll get a second chance, but he won't get a third one. To me, it's all about that. Once we have the compete level, the rest takes care of itself."