Warning: objects in mirror may be more injured than they appear.
Following the 5-3 loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators last night, the lede for the recap was "Tampa Bay Lightning fall to pieces". It was cutesy and punny, because the team was abjectly terrible and deserved to get whitewashed on the scoreboard. But they also lost Ben Bishop to an upper-body injury and Valterri Filppula to one of the lower-body variety.
This morning, things turn out to be a little bit worse than they seemed at first glance.
According to both Erik Erlendsson and Damian Cristodero, Anders Lindback completed basically the final 30 minutes of the game fighting a rather serious ankle injury that reportedly occurred when Cory Conacher ran into Lindback in the second period. Without a true emergency goaltender on hand, Lindback was forced to essentially finish the game on one leg, presumably with Bishop still being evaluated for a concussion after taking a skate boot to the back of the head in the first.
The morning started off quietly and optimistically enough -- both Bishop and Filppula made the trip to Montreal from Ottawa, which is much better than staying behind for evaluation or being returned to Tampa.
Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudlevskis both practiced with Syracuse this morning, so there didn't seem to be an emergency recall imminent from the AHL level, either, though these things sometimes take time:
Positive sign on Bishop? Perhaps, but most recalls after 5 pm RT @syrhockey: Desjardins and Gudlevskis both skating in Syracuse this morning— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) January 31, 2014
This is where things started to get interesting, as the Lightning took to the ice in Montreal for a practice prior to tomorrow's matinee with the Canadiens:
Bishop on the ice for practice today. But Lindback is not on the ice. Apparently sustained a lower-body injury Thursday vs. Senators.— Damian Cristodero (@LightningTimes) January 31, 2014
Stamkos on the ice. Filppula is not.— Damian Cristodero (@LightningTimes) January 31, 2014
So Stamkos, the player that's been injured since early November, practiced with the extra forwards, Filppula didn't practice at all, Bishop practiced but has already been ruled out for tomorrow as a precaution, and Lindback has an apparently serious ankle injury that he battled through last night since the Lightning had no other option, and he is expected to be out until after the Olympic break.
This leaves the Lightning scrambling in a couple of key positions, at least for the immediate future. Assuming Bishop doesn't develop any late-onset concussion-like symptoms, he should be fine for Tuesday's game on the road against the Minnesota Wild. But that still leaves the Bolts goalie-less for tomorrow's important divisional match against the Habs. The Lightning have not ruled out the possibility of calling up both Desjardins and Gudlevskis for that game, and if they do, expect Desjardins (who has significantly more professional experience) to get the start.
If Bishop isn't ready as fast as they hope, the Lightning face even more trouble as they'll lose Gudlevskis for some time as he is representing Latvia at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
As for the injured forwards, Valterri Filppula left the ice twice last night, and didn't return the second time with a lower-body injury. Per the team, here's the official listed status of everyone involved:
So as it stands now, official statuses: Bishop (upper body, day-to-day, ), Lindback (lower body, out) and Filppula (day-to-day, lower body).— Missy Zielinski (@Missy_Zielinski) January 31, 2014
Day-to-day is encouraging for Filppula just like it is for Bishop, but it also casts doubt on his availability for tomorrow's game. Nikita Kucherov practiced in Filppula's spot at center between Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell, but with no center experience at any level really it is possible that was simply out of convenience. Tom Pyatt, who has been a healthy scratch of late, will almost certainly be re-inserted into the lineup. He has experience in the NHL as a bottom-6 center, so forcing every other center up the depth chart one spot and using him between Crombeen and Malone makes sense...
...except Steven Stamkos skated in that spot. Easing him back into the lineup with sheltered, 4th line minutes might be the preferred option for the skilled sniper's NHL return, but with all the other injuries the Lightning are facing, this tidbit got lost in the shuffle a bit. It remains unclear just how close Stamkos is to returning, but there should be an indication of his availability based on whether or not the Bolts recall a forward from AHL Syracuse -- Vladislav Namestnikov would be the best bet if that's a move that's made.
Perhaps the most overlooked consequence of all of this is that the Lightning's top farm team -- the Syracuse Crunch -- are getting royally screwed. This is a lot worse than being like Batman on the other end of that red phone. The organization doesn't have enough goalies in the system to backfill with both Bishop and Lindback hurt and Gudlevskis heading to Sochi soon; Riku Helenius is available to spot start for the Crunch, but he's been the worst goalie available at nearly every level he's played at in the past 12 months.
As one writer so eloquently put it: "times are tough".
[UPDATE by John Fontana, 01/31/14 5:34 PM EST ]
Butting my head into Kyle's piece, it's being reported that Riku Helenius has been recalled from the ECHL to serve with the Syracuse Crunch. That's not news, as Helenius is the 5th goalie on the Lightning depth chart... It's the next tweet from Damien Cristodero that makes you realize what is going on here:
Naples Daily News reports Helenius called up to Crunch from ECHL Florida. Nothing from Syracuse but Florida confirms Helenius not on roster.— Damian Cristodero (@LightningTimes) January 31, 2014
Unless the Lightning are still debating the move internally and wanted a contingency plan, it looks like both Desjardins and Gudleskis are on their way to Montreal