The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without the services of defenseman Jason Garrison for the next three or four weeks, according to a variety of sources.
Garrison out 3-4 weeks w upper body. Sustr 1-2 weeks. Johnson out tonight w upper body. Paquette game time decision.
— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) March 30, 2015
That’s a tough blow as the Lightning wrap up a rather successful 2014-15 campaign. Garrison was injured in Saturday’s contest against the Detroit Red Wings after playing for just 41 seconds in the first period. The 30-year-old is in the midst of what may be the best season of his professional career.
Through 70 games Garrison had scored four goals and has added 26 assists. He’s a particularly valuable as a veteran presence on a blue line that is getting younger by the injury. Garrison will join trade deadline acquisition Braydon Coburn on the IR, and Andrej Sustr is expected to miss at least another week.
That means rookies like Nikita Nesterov and Luke Witkowski will need to take on larger roles, which is something that head coach Jon Cooper spoke at length about while talking with Joe Smith of The Tampa Bay Times:
“They’re our depth defenseman, they’re prospects. Are they ready for the NHL? Hard to say. But they’re in the NHL now. They’ve been with us before, they know our system, know how to play, we’re not expecting them to be Bobby Orr, expect them to move the puck to our forwards and defend, and they’ve done that. Are they going to make mistakes? Sure they are. But you’ve got to get games at some point and now is their turn. They have to step up.”
That last sentence is the key for Nesterov and Witkowski. It’s going to be trial by fire if they are in the lineup during the postseason, but its a great way for Tampa to figure out what it has in the system. Is the situation ideal? Of course not, but hockey teams have to deal with injuries at all times of the year.