Gearing up for playoff push, several Lightning players return from injury at a crucial time
Good timing just wasn’t a strong enough sentiment for Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher on Monday when asked about several Lightning players making their return from injury to play in Tuesday night’s game against the division-rival Washington Capitals.
Rather, Boucher said, “it’s the perfect moment.”
After nearly an entire week off the ice due to the All-Star Break, the Bolts reunited with each other at practice late Monday evening to pleasantly discover that it will have a few more healthy bodies in the lineup as play resumes Tuesday, just in time to make a run at a major playoff push.
“I know that you can hold on for a while when you have injuries, but you can't hold on forever,” Boucher said. “It's good to see some guys back for sure.”
Entering its game versus Washington, Tampa Bay sat just nine points out of both the top spot in the Southeast Division standings and the eighth and final playoff position in the East. With three games this week each coming against opponents within their own division, the Lightning are looking for some ground to gain to capture its second consecutive postseason berth, which all of a sudden, doesn’t seem as daunting with the return of several familiar faces.
Among the nine players who appeared on the injury list before the All-Star Break, three of them are expected to play against the Capitals.
Most notably among that group is defenseman Victor Hedman, who has missed 13 games due to a concussion suffered back on Dec. 27 against the Flyers. The No. 2 overall pick in 2009 had been cleared to participate in workouts prior to this week and took part in full team practice on Monday for the first time since sustaining the injury.
“I feel good and I feel like I’m ready to play,” Hedman said. “I just want to be in the lineup all the time and contribute and do whatever it takes to win.”
Also expected back are forwards Ryan Shannon and Tom Pyatt, both who missed time due to lower body injuries, which occurred on Dec. 21 and Jan. 19, respectively. The team, too, learned following its morning skate on Tuesday that JT Wyman, called up from Norfolk of the AHL on Dec. 19, is set to return against Washington as well.
With no regard, however, for who is in and out of the lineup, Boucher continues to stay the course and maintain a narrow focus which has resonated throughout the locker room and has reached the players.
“It’s a mountain-climber attitude, don't look up [at the standings] and don’t look down,” Boucher said. “You can't be afraid of heights if you are too high and can't be afraid of the height that's up there because it’s discouraging. Stay away from it. That’s the rock-climbing attitude.”