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Malone's return creates lineup crunch for Lightning

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- Ryan Malone will return to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup when they host the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Malone, who missed 13 games with a lower-body injury, was cleared to play after the morning skate. His return, while welcomed, does create a lineup dilemma for coach Guy Boucher.

"[Alexander] Killorn has been outstanding, [Ondrej] Palat too, so they are not coming out," Boucher said. "[Pierre-Cedric] Labrie brings us a lot of grit and enthusiasm. We don't want to change that. Those young guys have been terrific."

A lineup crunch is a happy development for a team that has been plagued by lack of depth for the past few years.

"That's the goal of this organization, to bring them up," Boucher said. "Obviously we do want results, but at the same time we want those guys to show us what they’ve got so we know where they are at."

Malone's return is a welcome occurrence for the Lightning, who have gone 4-8-1 in his absence.

"He's a huge part of our team and he's been missed," Boucher said. "I hope I don't have any restrictions on how I can use him, but he hasn't played in a long time and I have to be smart and give him the minutes he can manage. Obviously, he's a power-play and penalty-kill guy and plays on the top two lines, but I'm going to have to hold him back a little bit so he can look good when he's on the ice."

Malone didn't sound as if he needed to be held back.

"No restrictions. I hope not," Malone said. "I'm fully healed and ready. Feels good to get back in. We kind of took our time and went about the rehab properly and I'm ready to go."

Here are the possible lineups the Lightning and Jets could use in Thursday's game:


Alexander KillornSteven StamkosMartin St. Louis

Ryan MaloneVincent LecavalierTeddy Purcell

Ondrej PalatNate ThompsonCory Conacher

B.J. CrombeenTom PyattPierre-Cedric Labrie

Eric BrewerMatthew Carle

Victor HedmanSami Salo

Keith AulieBrian Lee

Anders Lindback

Cedrick Desjardins

Scratched: Adam Hall, Brendan Mikkelson, Marc-Andre Bergeron

Injured: Benoit Pouliot


Bryan LittleAndrew LaddBlake Wheeler

Evander KaneOlli JokinenAlexander Burmistrov

Antti MiettinenNik AntropovJames Wright

Eric TangradiJim SlaterKyle Wellwood

Mark StuartRon Hainsey

Dustin ByfuglienGrant Clitsome

Zach BogosianPaul Postma

Al Montoya

Ondrej Pavelec

Scratched: Chris Thorburn, Derek Meech

Injured: Toby Enstrom, Zach Redmond, Anthony Peluso

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