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 Killorn – Steven Stamkos – Martin St. Louis
Ryan Malone – Vincent Lecavalier – Teddy Purcell
Ondrej Palat – Nate Thompson – Cory Conacher
B.J. Crombeen – Tom Pyatt – Pierre-Cedric Labrie
Eric Brewer – Matthew Carle
Victor Hedman – Sami Salo
Keith Aulie – Brian Lee
Scratched: Adam Hall, Brendan Mikkelson, Marc-Andre Bergeron
Injured: Benoit Pouliot
Bryan Little – Andrew Ladd – Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane – Olli Jokinen – Alexander Burmistrov
Antti Miettinen – Nik Antropov – James Wright
Eric Tangradi – Jim Slater – Kyle Wellwood
Mark Stuart – Ron Hainsey
Dustin Byfuglien – Grant Clitsome
Zach Bogosian – Paul Postma
Scratched: Chris Thorburn, Derek Meech
Injured: Toby Enstrom, Zach Redmond, Anthony Peluso