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With injuries on defense, Lightning could seek help

by Corey Long /

Add the Tampa Bay Lightning to the list of teams that could be in the market for a defenseman before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper was forced to be creative with his lineups this past weekend when defenseman Jason Garrison was out with a lower-body injury. That included using forward Brian Boyle on a few defensive shifts in a 5-3 win Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks when rookie Luke Witkowski was serving a five-minute penalty for fighting.

With long-term injuries to defensemen Matthew Carle (abdominal surgery) and Radko Gudas (knee surgery), Garrison's absence left Cooper with six defensemen.

"It's likely every team could use help with depth on defense," Cooper said. "The thing with us is two of our guys are out long term. So you're going to eventually need some depth as we get into the final weeks."

Garrison returned to the lineup Tuesday in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators. However, with rookies Witkowski and Nikita Nesterov already on the roster, the Lightning have few options if they are faced with another injury replacement.

Cooper said he talks with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman all the time and it will be Yzerman's call on whether a deal is made or not. Cooper said he doesn't want to sacrifice the core of young players for a trade.

"I think with the guys that are playing now, their experience playing NHL games is giving us depth for down the road," Cooper said. "We're a pretty young team that's improving, and while I can't speak for Steve, I don't think you blow everything up because you have a couple of injuries on the back end."

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