TAMPA — Every year it seems Ryan Malone seeks to avoid the injury bug, only to be stricken at some point.
It found him this season when a puck went off his ankle during the Nov. 22 game in Anaheim, which resulted in a non-displaced fracture that has kept him out for a month after appearing in the first 23 games.
“I keep saying things happen for a reason and being positive,’’ Malone said. “The only good thing is that it’s not a half-season this year, we have a full season this year, so there is lots of time to get back and make an impact. It’s frustrating watching games, but it’s nice the boys are playing well and it makes it a lot easier.’’
At the time of the diagnosis, Malone was expected to miss 3-4 weeks, but he just resumed skating late in the week and the fracture is not 100 percent healed. There is some pain still involved, he said, and he has yet to begin skating with the team, which would be the next step in his recovery. Once he’s cleared to resume skating with the team, he will need some additional time to get his conditioning level back up after not being able to skate for the past four weeks.
“You can’t really lift your legs or anything like that, so (Saturday) was just kind of like, and I keep joking that it’s the first day of summer where you can’t really walk or sit down because your legs are really sore (after the first workout),’’ Malone said. “It’s been a while, so it’s nice to try to get that strength back and get that hop back sooner rather than later.’’
Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said he expects Malone to be out at least one more week but indicated a return could come at some point during the four-game swing through Western Canada that begins New Year’s Day in Vancouver.
“Conditioning is going to be his biggest thing now, but he’s healing and I don’t think he’s too far off in the distant future,’’ Cooper said.
Back in the lineup
Tom Pyatt’s ice time this year in game action equals 13 minutes, 15 seconds.
His time on the ice, however, has equated to hours and hours.
After missing the past 33 games while recovering from a broken collarbone suffered Oct. 8, Pyatt was back in the lineup Saturday skating on the fourth line.
“It’s been so long, it’s felt like forever,’’ Pyatt said. “It’s nice to be out there with the guys and get back in. ... It’s almost like a first game.’’
Last season, Pyatt finished with eight goals and 16 points in 43 games, and likely would have easily exceeded his career high in both categories if not for the lockout-shortened season. This season he was on the bubble heading into training camp and was a healthy scratch the first two regular-season games before suffering the injury.
Now he will be a welcome addition back to the lineup.
“He’s a pretty versatile player. He can play in the middle, which we have been lacking since (Steven Stamkos) has gone down,’’ Cooper said. “If you need a guy to jump in on the power play, or somebody to jump in on the (penalty kill), he can do it all. He’s got some speed so he’ll help with our attack.’’
Nuts and Bolts
D Eric Brewer suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in the second period and did not return. ... The Lightning held a video tribute for D Pavel Kubina, who announced his retirement Friday. ... D Mark Barberio, LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie and LW B.J. Crombeen were scratched.