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Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Lightning await word on St. Louis' injury

TAMPA — The thudding sound of puck striking skate boot could clearly be heard throughout the Forum early in the third period Tuesday night.

The puck came flying off the stick of Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty at the 4:36 mark of the third period during a Kings power play. The skate boot belonged to Tampa Bay Lightning captain Marty St. Louis, who took the full brunt of the shot.

As is the case with most hockey players, St. Louis shook off the pain in his foot, stayed in the game and eventually scored his second goal to cap a three-point night. His team-best 10 points in six games ranked second in league behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby heading into Wednesday's action.

After the game, the team captain took questions from reporters and appeared no worse for the wear other than a noticeable limp.

But Wednesday morning, St. Louis took a golf cart ride from his car into The Forum and was later seen wearing a walking boot instead of his skate boot, missing practice with what the team classified as a lower-body injury. Though St. Louis is listed as day-to-day, Tampa Bay recalled Brett Connolly from Syracuse of the American Hockey League late Wednesday and expects to have him available for tonight's game against Minnesota.

St. Louis' status remained unclear late Wednesday as the team awaited test results. Bringing up Connolly, however, suggests St. Louis is likely to sit out, even though the injury is not considered long term.

“From all indications it is nothing alarmingly serious,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But we'll wait until we get the doctor's report. And I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but much like the (goaltender Ben) Bishop situation, it's rest and precaution, and when we get a report we'll find out.''

Bishop sat out practice Friday and was held out of Saturday's game against Pittsburgh, but he returned to make 30 saves in Tuesday's victory against the Kings.

No information was provided by the team regarding any tests St. Louis underwent Wednesday, but the captain did not rule himself out.

“There's always a chance to play when you are day-to-day,'' St. Louis said via text message.

Connolly, the sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft, enjoyed a strong training camp, tied for the team lead with four goals in preseason play, before being one of the final cuts from camp. In three games with Syracuse, Connolly has one assist but will figure to slot in on one of the top three lines.

If St. Louis does not play, it would mark the first time he missed a game because of a game-related injury since he broke his leg on Jan. 23, 2002.

St. Louis missed two games in November 2005 after breaking a finger during practice. He also missed five games in December 2011 after being struck near his right eye with a puck by during a morning skate at Madison Square Garden, which snapped a streak of 499 consecutive games played.

Since returning from the broken leg on April 3, 2002, St. Louis has played in 853 of a possible 860 games, including regular-season and playoff games.

“He's a warrior,'' Lightning center Steven Stamkos said. “We're hoping that he plays, but if not, others are going to have to step up, just like if any other guy was out.''

But St. Louis is not just another guy, and he is not easily replaced. He plays in all situations, is a strong voice on the bench and in the locker room, and the two-time NHL scoring champion is one of the team's top offensive producers.

“No one is going to fill that role,'' right wing Teddy Purcell said. “I think we have some good depth, as we have shown in games, have different guys contributing. Obviously, when your leading scorer is down, you are not going to replace that, but it will be another opportunity for whoever takes on those minutes to get an opportunity.''

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