TAMPA - Tomas Tatar has been an absolute stud for the Canadiens this season, but he won't be in uniform on Thursday night.
The team's leading point-getter is returning to Montreal to have his upper-body injury evaluated by team doctors.
The 29-year-old left-winger suffered the injury earlier in the week against the New York Islanders and was forced to leave the game in the first period.
Head coach Claude Julien provided a brief update on Tatar's status following the morning skate at Amalie Arena.
"Since the injury, it hasn't changed. He hasn't improved at all," said Julien. "They just want to send him there, get him to see our doctors, do some investigating into the injury and at least have some clarity."
Tatar wasn't the only big gun missing from the on-ice session, however. Linemate Brendan Gallagher was also absent. He's dealing with the flu.
Julien isn't ruling Gallagher out for the matchup against the Lightning, though, so it's just a case and wait and see at this point.
If Gallagher can't play, Julien will go with seven defensemen versus Jon Cooper's squad.
Video: Claude Julien's pregame press conference @ TBL
Moving Karl around
Since the Canadiens were short on forwards for the morning skate, defenseman Karl Alzner took some reps on a line with Artturi Lehkonen and Phillip Danault.
The 31-year-old blueliner enjoyed the experience since he hasn't played up front in quite a while.
"I think when I was eight or nine [was the last time]. There are some guys that played a couple of games in college or junior, but I was never one of those guys," joked Alzner. "Some parts of it feel good, other parts feel weird, like the PK. I was so dizzy after the first rep because I was looking around trying to find guys at the top. You get a little bit of new respect for what forwards do sometimes."
Video: Karl Alzner on playing forward at the morning skate
If called upon, the 12-year NHL veteran indicated that he would happily accept the assignment.
"If that's what my role is, I'll be a utility player," cracked Alzner.
The Burnaby, BC native apparently told Danault that playing forward is "easy."
His centerman replied that it might seem that way since it was "just a morning skate."
Some good news for a change
Lehkonen was pleased to learn that Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk was doing well after getting 90 stitches to repair a cut around his eyelid.
It was the 24-year-old Finn's skate that did the damage at Barclays Center.
Boychuk left the ice in a hurry to seek medical attention, but fortunately he didn't sustain any damage to his eye.
"I was really happy to hear that he's doing OK," said Lehkonen. "It was a terrible situation overall."
Video: Artturi Lehkonen on talking to Johnny Boychuk
The former second-round selection reached out to Boychuk on Wednesday via text message and the pair had an opportunity to chat.
Lukas joins the fold
Fresh off being recalled from the AHL's Laval Rocket, youngster Lukas Vejdemo was on the ice with the rest of the group on Thursday.
The 24-year-old forward has nine goals and 19 points in 46 games with Joel Bouchard's club this season, and made four appearances with Montreal as well.
So why was Vejdemo the player chosen to join the big club in the Sunshine State?
"He's a guy who can play center, who can play wing. I was told that he'd be the next guy recalled," said Julien. "Marc [Bergevin] was clear. We want to keep guys like KK [Jesperi Kotkaniemi] there to finish the season and gain confidence. We also know that [Ryan] Poehling was dealing with an injury as well. With respect to Vejdemo, he was the guy to recall."
The former third-round selection is still seeking his first point in the NHL ranks.