It’s not quite a broken record sort of thing, but Simon Gagne is hurting yet again. He missed 18 games earlier this season with a neck injury and he’s out of the lineup for tonight’s game against Ottawa and is likely out for Tuesday’s game against the Islanders as well.
What’s ailing the veteran goal scorer this time? Turns out it’s a flare up with the same injury that he appeared to be finally getting over. Coach Guy Boucher told Damian Cristodero that they’re not too concerned with what’s bothering Gagne.
“If we wanted to we could have done it later,” Boucher said. “But that would be close to the playoffs and we wanted to give ourselves a little bit of time. The reality is we want to win every game, but we want to have all our guys healthy even if we have to sit some guys down in the short term.”
Gagne hasn’t been the clutch goal scorer he was in Philadelphia where netting 30-40 goals a season was the norm. Now with nagging injuries, Gagne’s racked up just 12 goals and 16 assists this season but his last three games showed promise that he was past his problems scoring two goals and four assists against Florida, Toronto, and Montreal.
The Lightning are a bit thin at left wing without Gagne as Ryan Malone is still out battling injuries of his own. Considering Gagne’s track record with injuries, they have to have some concern in the back of their mind. On the upside, if they’ve been unhappy with Gagne’s production this year (which is eerily similar to his injury-shortened production last season) Gagne’s an unrestricted free agent after this year and can let him walk away or re-sign him for less than the more than $5 million a year his cap hit demands now.
Still, Boucher is making a good call being cautious with Gagne now. The Lightning, while still fighting for a shot at home ice in the playoffs with Pittsburgh, will need to have everyone healthy and ready to go when the playoffs begin. If there’s even a doubt about anyone’s condition, there’s no need to rush them back to the ice.
The madness that Boucher’s worked by so far this year has worked and there’s no reason to start questioning it now since no one was banking on Tampa Bay to be a playoff team, never mind one fighting for a shot at home ice or a division title. If Gagne gets back healthy and picks up where he left off, Tampa Bay is a much more dangerous team outside of Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.