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2015 NHL Playoffs: The status of Cedric Paquette for game 3

There isn't a need to force Cedric Paquette back into the Lightning lineup.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Jon Cooper stated yesterday during a media conference call that Cedric Paquette would be a game-time decision on Wednesday for the first of back-to-back home games between the Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens. He repeated that notion after practice today. Paquette's injury status came during game-play on Sunday in Montreal, leaving during the 2nd period.

And that's where a red light goes off for me, not to play down the need for Cedric Paquette but knowing the conditions immediately ahead. Paquette has been banged up a bit this season, taking bumps and bruises as the season's gone on. He's played his role and has come back despite injury situations that made him look like he was outright done for the season.

The situation the Lightning is walking into now, back-to-back games in the put-it-all-out-there playoffs, just makes it feel like an unnecessary push to have Paquette back for game 3. That's not to suggest he shouldn't participate in a game unless it's games after the homestand (if they occur), but the weight of the next two games is going to be felt most in game 4 on Thursday. Having a fresher Paquette contributing to that one would seem like a sounder decision than trying to race him back for game 3 tomorrow.

Furthering the idea the Bolts shouldn't force Paquette back is knowing that the club has been sitting Jonathan Drouin for the playoffs; that storyline you've been hearing about more and more as the playoffs have progressed. Meanwhile, the Lightning already had made recalls to start its Black-Aces contingent last week - Jonathan Marchessault, Mike Angelidis and Kristers Gudlevskis.  While there's no chance (except through extreme circumstances) Gudlevskis will potentially see time in the game-night lineup, Marchessault and Angelidis both are capable of contributing to the lineup if the team requires it.

Yet with the lineup having been an 11 forward, 7 defenseman split more times than not during the playoffs, that would seemingly be how Paquette's absence would be dealt with. That won't require a hole to be filled as so much the role Paquette has had. While they can't straight-out fill the presence with Vladislav Namestnikov or J.T. Brown, both players can aptly cover the rest of the presence that Paquette brings.

Game 3 is going to be big and the results of game 3 are going to make game 4 huge, having a ready Paquette for the latter game just seems wiser. Then again, Jon Cooper isn't going to straight out disclose Paquette's status; Cooper doesn't want to give that card away to anyone (especially not Michel Therrien) which makes this entire article's necessity as questionable as Paquette's status for game 3.