Tampa Bay defenseman Jason Garrison exited during the Lightning’s game at Dallas on Thursday with a lower-body injury and didn’t return.
At Saturday’s morning skate, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said Garrison was out for tonight’s game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and questionable to play Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks.
“I don’t think it’s extremely long term,” Cooper added.
Garrison suffered an undisclosed injury in a game at the New York Islanders on December 20 and missed four straight games – the only games he’s missed this season prior to tonight -- but Cooper said this latest ailment is unrelated.
Without Garrison, the Lightning lose one of their most consistent performers. Garrison is second among all Bolts blue liners with 17 assists and has added three scores in 49 games this season.
“He’s a huge part of our team,” Cooper said. “The one thing about this is now we’re playing a couple big, heavy teams and you’d say Gary is our heaviest defensemen back there. So, that’s a big hole, especially against the teams we’re going to play against. We’ve just got to find a way.”
The Bolts will have to shuffle their penalty kill in Garrison’s absence too.
“The big difference is for us Gary’s a big penalty killer, so now other guys are going to have to step up and kill penalties,” Cooper said. “So, if you don’t want to do that, then don’t take penalties.
With Garrison out short term while fellow defensemen Radko Gudas and Matt Carle sit with long-term injuries, there has been speculation the Lightning could make a move before the trade deadline (March 2) to acquire more help on the blue line.
Cooper, however, wouldn’t necessarily agree that was the way to go.
“You’re eventually going to need some depth, but I think with the guys that are playing now, their experience in playing NHL games is giving us depth for down the road,” Cooper said. “…I think we’re a pretty good young team that’s improving, and I don’t know if, again, I can’t speak for (Lightning GM) Steve (Yzerman), but I don’t know if you blow things up just because you’ve got a couple injuries on the back end. I don’t think that’s the prudent thing to do.”