For a large portion of NHLers, the five-day All-Star Break affords players the opportunity to escape the demanding grind of the lengthy 82-game regular season schedule.
It's just as efficient in serving as an entertainment vehicle for fans as it is a rare chance for players to rejuvenate their bodies.
For the Lightning, the chance to rest injuries comes at an opportune time.
Tampa Bay currently has eight regulars out of the lineup due to injury. Add in JT Wyman, who was injured shortly after being called up from the Bolts' top AHL affiliate in Norfolk, and the team was down to 11 forwards and six defensemen before winger Mike Angelidis and defenseman Evan Oberg were recalled on Tuesday.
"I can't even tell you which one is upper body, lower body, the back of the body, the top of the head. We've got them all,"head coach Guy Boucher said. "To me, it's all just a blur right now."
What Boucher can say with certainty, however, is that the All-Star Break comes at a perfect time when his team needs it most.
"These are the most injuries this team has had since I've been here by far," Boucher added. “It’s extremely taxing, but it's good that the Break is coming up now, so hopefully we can have some of our guys back after this week and ready to go after the Break."
Among those who Boucher expects to see back in the lineup next Tuesday when the team resumes play against the division-rival Capitals are forwards Ryan Malone, Ryan Shannon and Tom Pyatt. There was also hope that defenseman Victor Hedman, who according to Boucher, has done "very well" and continues to participate in off-ice workouts, could also return then too. Hedman even skated at the Lightning's morning skate on Tuesday, although while wearing a red no-contact jersey.
I've been off the ice, so it was a lot of fun to get back on the ice with the boys," Hedman said. "If I still felt like I had symptoms, I wouldn't be playing and wouldn't be working out, so it's just a matter of time until I get back into game shape. During the Break I'm not going to lay on the beach. I'm going to work hard and get prepared to get back into the game."
That Hedman's return to the lineup would greatly benefit the depleted Lightning blue line is an understatement. The imposing Swede, selected with No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, was logging major minutes - 22:28 to be exact - and was on the top defensive pairing with Eric Brewer.
As for Shannon, the Bolts forward said he has been working on strengthening his legs to help rehab a lower-body injury, while also attempting to rebuild his confidence.
"I've been kind of a slave to the medical staff right now,"Shannon said. "But I feel like I'm getting better every day."
For as much as the All-Star Break will undoubtedly be embraced by the Lightning, it might not end up doing all that much for Bolts center Dana Tyrell
The team learned Tuesday that Tyrell is projected to be out for the season after discovering the forward will require surgery to repair an ACL in his right knee. The Lightning forward has just five assists in 26 games and averages 10:30 in ice time per game, but Boucher believes what the team will miss most in his absence strays far from just his offensive statistics.
“I strongly believe that any team that does well has a lot of good foot soldiers, and he's definitely one of those guys,” Boucher said. “People will label players as a hitter, a fighter, a scorer or a passer. There’s one type of individual we never label and they are puck retrievers. They’re probably the most important guys in the game. That’s what he does best. If he's not able to play, it’s less pucks for the team, for sure.”
For now, and at least through the All-Star Break, “nobody fell down the stairs today,” Boucher added, “so we can leave the other half of Norfolk there.”