TAMPA — Shortly into his third shift of the third period on Thursday, Tampa Bay Lightning center Valtteri Filppula felt something pop in his right foot.
That “pop’’ turned out to be a non-displaced fracture in Filppula’s right ankle that will keep him out for at least three weeks and force him to miss the Olympics.
The injury comes three days before Filppula was scheduled to depart for Sochi, Russia, and compete for Finland at the Olympics.
“I was really looking forward to going to the Olympics and play,’’ said Filppula, who won a bronze medal with Finland at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. “It’s tough right now, but something positive is that it’s not too bad of a break and I should be back soon after the Olympics, so that’s a good thing.’’
Tampa Bay will enter Saturday’s game against Detroit — the final game for both teams before the Olympic break — without its top two centers in Steven Stamkos and Filppula, who ranks second on the team with 20 goals and 41 points.
With Filppula out, the team called up 2011 first-round draft pick center Vladislav Namestnikov from Syracuse of the American Hockey League. Namestnikov has 13 goals and 30 points in 31 games for the Crunch this season. He missed two months with a shoulder injury suffered in November.
The Lightning also could be without Vezina Trophy candidate goaltender Ben Bishop, who left Thursday’s game after the second period with an undisclosed upper-body injury and missed practice on Friday.
The team listed Bishop’s status as day-to-day, but goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis was called up from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Friday and will be available to backup Cedrick Desjardins in the event Bishop is unable to play.
Anders Lindback, Tampa Bay’s No. 2 goaltender, is out with an ankle injury.
“I don’t know if Bish is going to be able to go for us,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “But if there has been a team that has found a way when we have lost guys, this has been the team.
“The win-loss side of things are not going our way right now and that really hasn’t happed to us to this extent this year as it is right now. But we have one game before the break and we have to do everything in our power to win this game and then regroup, get healthy and prepare for the second season.’’
The hope is Filppula will be ready to return when the Lightning resume their season after the Olympics on Feb. 27 in Nashville.
“It’s unfortunate that I will miss the Olympics, but the good news is that I won’t miss too many games here,’’ Filppula said. “That’s really important for me, as well. It’s tough, to say the least, but there is still a lot of hockey left to play this year.’’
Filppula said he took a puck off his right foot during the first period of Thursday’s loss to Toronto, but was able to continue playing. It was in the third period when he took a stride, felt the pop in the ankle and lost the strength in his leg as he made his way back to the Lightning bench.
The non-displaced fracture is similar to the injury suffered by Lightning forward Ryan Malone when he took a puck off his foot on Nov. 22 that kept him out until Jan. 1.
“I guess you could say we are going through some extra adversity right now, the injures we’ve had and the tough games we’ve lost on top of it,” center Nate Thompson said. “But you can look at it with an open mind that some teams get better because of this. We have an opportunity (Saturday) night to win a game and go into the break feeling good about ourselves and rest up.’’
That’s the emphasis Cooper put on the last game before the NHL takes a break for two-plus weeks.
“We have our backs against the wall, and we are shorthanded now as well,’’ Cooper said. “But we have been a reslient group ... and when your boat has a leak in it you have to find ways to plug it without other leaks popping up. We are kind of in the process right now of tryng to plug these holes.
“And I think that one of the things that is going to help us out right now is the Olympic break. I’m sure there are teams that are cringing that this break is coming up. We are not one of them.’’