Having at least a week off in the playoffs can throw some players out of rhythm, which must be a bit of a worry for the Tampa Bay Lightning.* Then again, that slight negative cannot obscure the fact that banged-up players receive much-needed time to recuperate.
Concussions – even “mild” ones – can be very unpredictable, but Simon Gagne is one player who is benefiting from that layoff. Gagne received another head injury when he was unable to break a fall after a Scott Hannan hit during Game 1 of Tampa Bay’s second round series against the Washington Capitals. The experienced sniper missed the team’s remaining three games against Washington, but he said he felt good after his first practice since suffering that injury.
The optimism is building to the point that Lightning coach Guy Boucher indicated that there’s a good chance he’ll be able to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. It’s likely that the longer the two Western Conference finals go, the more those chances will increase, although there’s also always the chance of a setback.
Naturally, there’s reason to wonder how much he’ll be affected by the injury, but if Gagne is reasonably close to 100 percent, he should make the Bolts more dangerous. Gagne is one of the purest goal scorers in the NHL when healthy, hitting the 40+ goal plateau twice and the 30+ goal mark two other times in his career. He was a nice asset so far in the playoffs, too, with two goals and five assists for seven points in eight games.
While Gagne has a good chance of coming back, Boucher said that Pavel Kubina needs a bit more time. He’s day-to-day with what could also be a head injury.
* That being said, the Boston Bruins face a similar problem since they closed out the Philadelphia Flyers two nights after the Lightning swept the Capitals.