TAMPA -- The loss of captain Vincent Lecavalier from the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup is just another blow the team must try to overcome in fighting to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We've been getting slapped all year, so why change it now?" Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "It's not for the next two or three days, it's more than that. He's out indefinitely because we can’t put a date on when he’ll be back, but it certainly won't be tomorrow."
The Lightning captain sustained an upper-body injury during Tampa Bay's win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, and was unable to practice on Monday. Tests left no doubt as to the severity of the injury.
"There is no gray area," Lecavalier said. "Obviously when I come back is kind of a gray area, but the tests showed definitely that there are no gray areas."
For the Lightning, the timing couldn't be worse. The team wraps up a homestand Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks during which they made strides to close the gap to qualify for postseason play. Tampa Bay has gone 9-3-2 over the last 14-game stretch and is currently just six points out of the final playoff spot. That’s as close as the Lightning have been to a playoff spot since Dec. 31.
The Lightning have been plagued by injuries all season, at one point playing a month without nine of their regulars. But through the team's resurgence and playoff push, their big three of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Lecavalier have been a constant presence.
Now, that's changed.
"Obviously, the biggest thing is that we're playing really well as a team right now and everyone has stepped up his game in this last month," Lecavalier said. "Obviously the beginning of the season wasn't what we wanted, but we've really pulled together, it seems, since January. That's the part of the year that you want to be part of something and there with the guys; every single game is a playoff game so you want to be part of that. Unfortunately, I won't be able to."
The Ducks are an equally hungry opponent who are on the periphery of the Western Conference playoff picture, but they have been making some strong advances of late.
"They did the same thing last year," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They're good players and they realized the situation and rallied."
Anaheim arrives at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with a 15-2-4 record in the past 21 games and has climbed to within five points of a playoff berth. The Ducks are on the tail end of an eight-game road trip, their longest of the season, during which they have managed to snag at least a point in each game. Tuesday night they will be after their first 10-game point streak since 2007. If they get it, the points will come at the expense of a Tampa Bay club that is scrambling.
"Our lines will change; our lineup is thinner so the danger, obviously, is that the other team wears you out, so we'll have to manage our top guys and the third and fourth lines so that we have energy but don't get worn out come the third period," Boucher said. "Stamkos and St. Louis are going to sleep on the ice, that's obvious, but we'll try to manage it so that they can maintain 60 minutes of solid play."
Here's how the lineups project for tonight's game:
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - George Parros
Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Nate Thompson - Adam Hall - Brett Connolly
Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais