One day after saying there was a “slim” chance injured Bolts Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina would return for Game 3, Coach Guy Boucher officially ruled the winger and the defenseman out for both games in Tampa.
“Simon and Kubina are not going to play,” he said. “If I want them to play tomorrow, I better start praying.”
Then the coach came clean and delivered the best lines of the series.
“They are day-to-day today,” he cracked, “except for today and tomorrow.”
Gagne and Kubina both suffered upper body injuries in Game 1.
Some other notes from Boucher’s news conference:
*Aside from being shorthanded, Boucher said one of the biggest challenges facing his team Tuesday will be fighting the temptation to look ahead.
“We talked about it,” he said, referring to a team meeting at St. Pete Times Forum. “That’s what we don’t want to do. We play that one game tonight and it’s my job to make sure I’m smart about the changeups and the matchups. But I think once the players start this game, it has to be all about that particular game, and then we’ll see tomorrow.”
He later added: “The illusion is it’s 2-0. Tonight, it’s 0-0 when we start the game. What we’ve done that the last two games absolutely has no bearing on what’s going to happen tonight. We start back from scratch. That’s been our attitude.”
*Another topic discussed during the meeting, Boucher said, was the plight of ailing assistant coach Wayne Fleming. The 60-year-old was scheduled to undergo surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor Tuesday morning. He was diagnosed in early April and this will be his second procedure in a month.
“We did bring it up but it wasn’t to draw inspiration,” Boucher said. “We brought it up to make sure the players were aware of what was going on. It’s not something you want to hide. It’s obviously a very, very serious operation.”
“To be honest with you, I can’t wait to see how it went,” he added. “It’s a very tough day for him and his family and for our team.”
The surgery is reportedly an eight-hour procedure.
Fleming was in charge of the penalty kill, which, during his absence, has done him proud. The unit has extinguished 97.8-percent (45 of 46) of the shorthanded situations it has faced.
*Something to keep an eye Tuesday will be the length of the Lightning’s shifts. Boucher said with three games in four nights, it’s critical that his players keep them as short as possible.
“This situation for us, I go so low as 15 to 25,” he said. “That’s what we did the last two games, and also in Game 7 [against Pittsburgh]. You can’t always have it. But the minute I have control over it, or the players there is an opportunity to [change lines] we’ve done that. It has served us well, especially in the playoffs.”
Boucher is a talker, if you haven’t heard. So sometimes he elaborates on a subject, even when he isn’t pressed. Today, it was a length of shifts and how that correlates directly to performance.
“During the year, if your extend your shift past 35 seconds, you’re not working hard enough. Period. You’re floating around,” Boucher added. “I’ve showed that to the players many times on the video. If you go full out for 35 seconds, you’re dead. There’s a lot of floating going on, and as coaches, it’s our job to get rid of that. Because we’re short-staffed and because we’re playing a lot lately ...[shifts] need to be 30 seconds max.”