Head coach Guy Boucher wasn’t nearly as concerned Thursday with the challenges presented by the Montreal Canadiens as he was with the status of his own team’s defensive corps.
The Lightning will head into their game against the Habs without top defenseman Victor Hedman, who is still listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury after falling awkwardly into the boards during Tuesday’s 5-1 victory over the Flyers. Factor in the absence of Mattias Ohlund, who has yet to appear in any regular season games so far, plus the fact that Matt Gilroy has missed each of the team’s past four games, and it suddenly appears as if the Bolts blue line is looking more like a black and blue line as of late.
“I’m going to go to church and light some candles,” Boucher said. “We’ll let time take care of it, but we want to be smart about this and we don’t want to rush guys back.”
At least some of Boucher’s prayers may have been answered at the team’s morning skate Thursday, when he revealed Gilroy is “ready to go” and will appear versus Montreal. There was also good news regarding Eric Brewer, who practiced Wednesday in Brandon and showed no negative effects from a second-period dust-up with Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds on Tuesday night, other than a swollen and bruised left eye and a minor laceration on the side of his face.
Whereas Brewer is expected to be in the lineup against the Canadiens, the picture isn’t as clear for Hedman, who continues to be evaluated each day and whose status remains uncertain beyond Thursday’s game.
“It was the ultimate rope-a-dope Tuesday night,” General Manager Steve Yzerman told The Tampa Tribune. “When you take two defensemen out of any lineup during a game, it’s hard to recover, and they are our top two guys. I was a little worried, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Eric come back.”
The injury concerns, however, extend beyond the blue line too.
Forward Ryan Shannon, as expected, remains out for two to four weeks with a lower body injury, while Nate Thompson’s ailment, also a lower body injury, has not healed as quickly as the team had hoped, Boucher said.
While hesitant to characterize Thompson’s progress as a setback, Boucher did offer just the opposite, adding that the reaction from Wednesday’s practice was positive and that the status of the injury, listed as day-to-day, likely reveals a timetable for Thompson’s return sooner rather than later.
“He’s a huge part of our team,” Boucher said of Thompson.
“He’s one of those guys who works so hard and battles so hard, that something like this is going to happen. Guys like Thompson, Hedman, Ohlund, they’re irreplaceable.”