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Lecavalier heading to IR with lower-body injury

by Lonnie Herman /

TAMPA -- As if it weren't enough that the Tampa Bay Lightning have lost seven of their past nine games, Thursday morning they also lost captain Vincent Lecavalier.

Lecavalier was placed on injured reserve as a result of a hit he sustained in the third period of Tampa Bay's 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. Although the injured-reserve status puts Lecavalier out of action for a minimum of seven days (retroactive to Tuesday), Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he expects Lecavalier will be sidelined longer than that.

"Lecavalier plays a lot of minutes," Yzerman said. "It's a big hole in our lineup. He's one of our key faceoff guys and power-play guys. It's a difficult hole to fill, but we have to try to look at something positive. Someone's going to come down from Syracuse (American Hockey League) and get an opportunity."

That someone will be Tyler Johnson, an undrafted center who leads the AHL with 32 goals and leads the Lightning affiliate with 58 points. Johnson will make his NHL debut Thursday night when Tampa Bay hosts the New York Islanders.

"He's a top goal-scorer in the American Hockey League," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.

"He's done it all, pretty much the same as [Cory] Conacher. We know that he's a smaller centerman [5-foot-9]. He's really smart defensively. He does it all, basically. It's a question now, can he do it at this level? We know he can do it down there. He dominates in the American league."

Even if Johnson performs well, there is no question that Lecavalier's absence will be felt.

"Obviously we will be missing Vinny," Boucher said. "He was just coming back from his previous problem [a bruised foot]. He had a goal and an assist last game. That's our season right there -- adversity. We all go through it.

"You can't put the pressure on Johnson to do what Vinny has done with the experience he has had in his 1,000-plus games in the NHL. ... He'll come in and I'll tell him what I tell all the young guys: Come in and do what you normally do. Go out and play your game."

Asked what he will tell Johnson prior to his first NHL game, Boucher said, "First, I won’t mention the name Lecavalier. That'll help."

Here are the projected lineups for the Islanders and Lightning:


Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Brad Boyes

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo

Keith Aucoin - Marty Reasoner - David Ullstrom

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald

Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald

Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky

Mark Streit - Radek Martinek

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: Eric Boulton, Joe Finley,

Injured: Michael Grabner, (shoulder), Matt Carkner, (groin)


Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis

Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson - Teddy Purcell

Ondrej Palat - Adam Hall - Cory Conacher

Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Tyler Johnson - B.J. Crombeen

Eric Brewer - Matt Carle

Victor Hedman - Sami Salo

Keith Aulie - Radko Gudas

Anders Lindback

Mathieu Garon

Scratched: Brian Lee, Marc-Andre Bergeron

Injured: Vincent Lecavalier (lower body), Tom Pyatt (upper body) Benoit Pouliot (upper body)

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