It seemed as though Dan Girardi was close to a return for the Tampa Bay Lighting, but any excitement should be tempered for now. The team today announced that Girardi will be out “indefinitely” with a lower-body injury. The 34-year old defenseman hasn’t played since March 7th, and Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times was told by head coach John Cooper on Monday that Girardi hadn’t suffered a setback. Still, it seems as though the Lightning will have to look elsewhere for the time being.
The Lightning certainly haven’t missed a beat with Girardi out of the lineup, winning their last five games to extend their lead and secure the Presidents Trophy. Still, he has been a valuable option for the team this season and his absence will only thin out their depth on the blue line. With the NHL playoff grind just around the corner, losing an experienced right-shot defenseman is never an ideal situation.
Experienced is certainly one way to describe Girardi, who has suited up for 139 playoff games during his long career, including 17 last season with the Lightning. While he has just 36 points in those games, he has averaged nearly 23 minutes of ice time including some incredible totals as a younger player in New York. The team will now have to rely even more heavily on Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak while short handed, especially until Stralman returns. Jan Rutta meanwhile will get an extended opportunity to show he can be a full-time contributor.