There weren't many veterans on the ice for the Lightning's optional skate Monday, but it was a good sign that Dan Girardi was one of them.
The veteran defenseman has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury suffered Jan. 30 against Winnipeg. While Girardi won't play tonight against the Oilers, Monday's first on-ice workout appeared encouraging.
Girardi hopes he can return later this week, Tampa Bay playing next on Thursday, but he won't rush it.
"I'll be back as soon as possible, but I've got to make sure everything feels right," Girardi said. "Especially this time of year, it's a tough time of year, want to make sure everything is feeling good going into the playoffs. Don't want anything nagging going into playoff time."
The Lightning has gone with seven defensemen the past two games, both wins, and likely will again tonight. Andrei Vasilevskiy will start.
While Tampa Bay has won five of seven on this telling, eight-game road trip, it doesn't feel like it has been winning the right way.
"The biggest thing is we need to play for the right net," Girardi said. "We've got to take care of our net first. We're a good team up front and have a lot of skill. And if we play good defense we'll get offensive chances. We had a 3-0 lead in Vancouver (Saturday) and gave up 17 shots in the third. That's not a shutdown period. At that point, this time of year, that needs to be a lockdown period – they get nothing, make them earn every inch of that ice, 200 feet. We didn't do that. We were playing loose, and not really taking care of our own end. We need to get back to playing real structured defensive game, that playoff hockey."
Cory Conacher is sporting six stitches on his upper lip, thanks to a high stick he took late in Saturday's 4-2 win in Vancouver.
Conacher sealed the game with a goal on the ensuing penalty shot. He credited head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan with patching up his bloody lip before the shot.
"My face was still numb," Conacher said. "Maybe it was a good thing?"
Conacher has scored three goals in his past two games after being a healthy scratch in eight of the previous nine. That was a boost of confidence for a forward who is trying to battle for playing time, especially with Matt Peca's emergence and Michael Bournival's callup.
"It's just a reassurance of the way I've been trying to work in practices," Conacher said. "I've tried to make plays in practices, be creative, but at the same time making the smart, right plays. I know I'm not going to score every game, I just hope I can bring something to the table, add something to help this team win."
As for the nasty cut on his lip, Conacher was asked if his wife liked the new look?
"She knows she won't be kissing me for a little while," Conacher quipped. "She's just glad I didn't lose any teeth."