When Vincent Lecavalier was last in the lineup (Feb. 18), the Lightning were just six points out of a playoff spot with 24 games to go.
Now that he’s ready to return, the Lightning are nine points out with just six to play.
Which begs the question: Why is Lecavalier coming back?
It’s simple, says the Tampa Bay captain — he wants to play hockey.
“The guys have been working so hard, as soon as I’m ready I want to play,” Lecavalier told TampaBay.com. “Even if there’s seven, five, three games.”
There are two ways of looking at this. One is that, as the team’s captain and highest-paid player, Lecavalier has a responsibility to play so long as he’s healthy. He’s a huge part of the team — prior to getting hurt he was having a solid year (21G-25A-46PTS in 58 games) and averaging over 19 minutes per game.
Then, throw in the fact head coach Guy Boucher all but demanded a return (“Our mentality is every game we want to put our best team on the ice,” he said) and you can see why Lecavalier’s set to play Thursday against the Devils.
But there’s another way of looking at this, and it has to do with “so long as he’s healthy.” The broken bone in Lecavalier’s hand is not a new issue. He had surgery on this same non-displaced fracture last season and admitted this latest injury took longer to heal than expected.
Outside of possibly helping Steve Stamkos get to 60 goals, one has to wonder what’s the upshot for Lecavalier’s return. Though he only turns 32 in April, he’s a veteran of 14 NHL seasons, played nearly 1,000 games and has nagging hand injury. Is the risk associated with his return greater than any potential reward?
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
- Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
- This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
- By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.
(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)
Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)
You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:
It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.
Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:
Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).
If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.
You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.
The pain goes beyond that … literally so.
For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.
(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)
The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.
Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.
It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.
The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).
The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.
One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.