NEWARK, N.J. --
The Tampa Bay Lightning
will get their captain, Vincent Lecavalier
, back in the lineup on Thursday when they visit the New Jersey Devils
at Prudential Center.
Lecavalier has missed the previous 18 games with a fractured right hand sustained Feb. 18 against the Capitals when he was hit by a puck. Lecavalier actually announced his return via his Twitter account on Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm ready to play and happy that it's six games," Lecavalier said. "It wouldn't have mattered if it were six games, one game or three games. To me, when you're ready to come back, you come back and these guys have been working so hard the last month. I wanted to come and play and have some fun and play the game and try to finish strong."
Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher
said Lecavalier's minutes will be monitored, but he expects the big center to provide some extra energy to the lineup.
"My minutes won't be limited as a result of the injury more than the fact I've been away for five weeks," Lecavalier said. "We'll keep the shifts short and simple, but I'll be ready. I've worked out hard and I feel good."
Additionally, center Nate Thompson
will miss his seventh straight game with upper-body injury. Boucher will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen for Thursday's contest.
Despite the lost time, Lecavalier has 21 goals, 46 points in 58 games while averaging 19:04 of ice time. He's second on the team with five game-winning goals and also second with 505 faceoff wins -- five behind Steven Stamkos
Tampa Bay is a longshot to qualify for the playoffs. The team is nine points behind eighth-seeded Buffalo in the Eastern Conference standings.
Here are the projected lineups for the Lightning:
- Steven Stamkos
- Martin St. Louis
- Vincent Lecavalier
- Brett Connolly
- Tom Pyatt
- Tim Wallace
- Adam Hall
- Eric Brewer
- Brian Lee
- Brendan Mikkelson
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale