You could say that last season for Ryan Malone was one he’d rather not let linger in his memory. Injuries piled up on him and held him to just 54 games played, a career low. By missing 28 games he registered a career low in goals scored with 14 and had his second worst points output in his seven year career.
While the Lightning didn’t appear to miss him too much last year after finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference and making it to the Eastern Conference finals, heading into this season they’re going to need Malone to be at his best. After undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Malone will look to have a throwback kind of season starting off with the number he’ll be wearing. After wearing the number 6 last year giving deference to Simon Gagne, with Gagne in Los Angeles now Malone is switching back to his trusty number 12.
With his number back in place, Malone hopes a healthy shoulder can return him to his previous 20+ goal scoring form as Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune shares.
When the Lightning’s season ended, rest and recovery was the expected route for Malone, but while doing some off-season training, he said he felt something wasn’t right behind the shoulder.
“It was just kind of nagging, so I went to get it looked at it and it was still kind of separated so we had to go get it fixed,” Malone said. “After the season there was still all the swelling so after everything went down, that’s when we found some other stuff that had to be taken care of.”
The procedure was performed by Dr. Daniel Buss, the team physician for the Minnesota Twins, who specializes in shoulder and elbow injuries. While initial reports suggested that Malone could miss up to six months, he said on Sunday that he expects to be ready for the start of the regular season when Tampa Bay opens up at Carolina on Oct. 7.
Before last season, Malone had posted three straight 20+ goal seasons going from 27 goals in 07-08 to 26 during his first season in Tampa Bay in 08-09 to 21 in 09-10. Life as a power forward in the Eastern Conference isn’t generally as difficult as it is in the West, but Malone’s found a way to be effective around the net. With Steve Stamkos emerging as the Lightning’s top gun and with Martin St. Louis being their most dependable scorer, getting Malone going once to help out Vincent Lecavalier and either Teddy Purcell or Steve Downie would give the Lightning a frightening top six.
To do that Malone is going to need to be healthy, something he’s had a tough time doing since joining Tampa Bay. Malone has missed 53 games over three seasons in Tampa and while his absence last year allowed Purcell to see more ice time, having him out there harassing goalies and scoring dirty goals in front of the net is what they’d like to see more often. If Guy Boucher can have his full arsenal of toys all season long, the Lightning might just be able to go a bit further than they did last year.