If there is any doubt about the excitement level around the return of Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier
, just check out the captain’s official Twitter feed along with that of his teammates.
Lecavalier is expected to appear in his first game since Feb. 18 tonight as the Lightning face off against the Devils at the Prudential Center. Lecavalier had missed each of his team’s past 18 games with a non-displaced fracture in his right hand, sustained back on Feb. 18 in a game against the division-rival Capitals.
“Happy to be back!!” Lecavalier tweeted.
Even with six games remaining in the regular season, Lightning head coach Guy Boucher didn’t hesitate to insert the Bolts forward back into the lineup as soon as possible.
“Vinny is part of the show,” Boucher said last week prior to the team’s three-game road trip. “Every night our goal is to go out and put our best team on the ice.”
Lecavalier is certainly part of that equation.
Lecavalier appears on the bench during Lightning morning skate today at New Jersey's Prudential Center for the first time in a red no-contact jersey since suffering an injury Feb. 18.
He has 21 goals and 46 points in just 58 games this season, while his five game-winning goals are second on the team only to Steven Stamkos
’ 10. His 19:04 in ice time is also third among team forwards.
While Lecavalier’s minutes tonight against New Jersey are likely to be monitored closely, his presence in the lineup does relieve both Stamkos and Martin St. Louis
of the added playing time and responsibilities they have taken on in their captain’s absence.
Still, his return is nonetheless being embraced with open arms by a team who has perhaps seen more than its fair share of injuries this season.
“Good luck tonight, my friend!” defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron
also shouted out to his teammate via Twitter.
Both Boucher and Lecavalier conceded that the injury took longer to heal than expected, but the Lightning forward did participate in the morning skate on Thursday wearing the normal colored practice jersey, indicating that he would be ready to go for tonight’s game.