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Dan Girardi a game-time decision for the Lightning's matchup vs. Carolina

The veteran defenseman could return to the lineup two days after Sunday's head injury

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi said he's watched the replay a couple times.

He doesn't want to see it anymore.

You know the video I'm talking about.

Two nights ago in Detroit, Girardi went down to a knee like he's done tens of thousands of times over his NHL career to block a shot, except this time the heavy one-timer off the stick of Red Wings forward Martin Frk sailed high, catching Girardi around the back of the head and sending him face first to the ice, stunning the Little Caesars Arena crowd into an eerie silence and leaving Lightning nation praying for the best.

"(The puck) bounces pretty far. It goes back to (Frk) a little bit," Girardi joked with reporters in the locker room following Tampa Bay's morning skate on Tuesday, a morning skate Girardi amazingly attended and participated in, as if the scariest moment of his career didn't just happen two nights earlier. "I don't really want to watch it anymore. It's kind of too close for comfort."

Girardi was back on the ice Tuesday and said he feels fine, so much so, that he'll potentially play tonight when the Lightning host the Carolina Hurricanes at AMALIE Arena, one of only three games at home for the Bolts in January. He even looks no worse for the wear. There's no bump or scar on the back of his neck, not even a bruise.

Tweet from @TBLightning: Cooper on Girardi: ���After seeing the event, it was a scary moment for all of us. But what else can you say about him? He���s a warrior.���No decision yet on whether or not he plays tonight, but ���encouraging��� to see him back skating. #CARvsTBL

"Inside, it's a little sore," he said, smiling.

Two days after taking a hard piece of rubber at 100 miles per hour off the back of his neck, Girardi was back to his normal self, cracking jokes and downplaying what could have been a tragedy. Girardi said when he was first struck by the puck and lying on the ice, his arm went numb. The feeling quickly returned and, after collecting himself for a couple minutes, he was eventually able to skate off the ice and walk to the locker room under mostly his own power. As he exited the game, he told his teammates to go get the win for him.

"That's the first one that's hit me over the shoulders," Girardi said. "It was definitely a very scary moment. Pretty lucky to be able to come on the ice two days later and feel pretty good. Just very fortunate that it hit me in the spot where it did. Neck's a little sore, but considering what happened, pretty lucky."

Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was on the ice when Girardi went down. Hedman said there was immediate concern Girardi was seriously injured when he saw the puck hit him up high but felt better when he skated near his fallen teammate and could hear him talking and see him moving.

"He's a strong man," Hedman said. "He took it in a spot where he was able to recover very quickly. To see him out there was phenomenal. I talked to him yesterday too and just wanted to make sure he was okay. He seemed great after the game. He's a real character guy in the locker room. He was making jokes between periods in the Detroit game. Just goes to show what kind of guy he is. He lays everything on the line, sacrifices his body to win hockey games."

Girardi said he went through a series of concussion tests on Monday and passed them all, which is why he'll try to give it a go against the Hurricanes tonight.

"I wouldn't be back out there if I was feeling like crap, if I was hurting," he said. "Obviously the neck is sore getting hit with a puck, but everything considering I feel good everywhere else. My head's clear, which is good. If I'm able to practice, I'm going to go out and practice. That's kind of what happened today."

As it is, Girardi is "just happy to be back at practice with the boys." And he's ready to put what could have been a potentially career-ending moment behind him.

Delete the video, erase the memory and go back out to block the next shot that comes his way.

"It was tough to probably see that," he said. "Being a part of it wasn't very fun either."

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