By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
Saying his broken finger can't get worse, the 2003-04 MVP misses only two games instead of two to four weeks.
TAMPA - Lightning right wing Marty St. Louis said he walked into coach John Tortorella's office after Thursday's morning skate and told him he was ready to play.
Tortorella's response: You're in.
Easy as that. The player who was told he would be out two to four weeks with a broken left ring finger missed just three days and two games before returning to the lineup against the Islanders.
There was no miracle cure. St. Louis, hurt in Sunday's practice by a Darryl Sydor slap shot, said the finger is still painful. But he said, and trainer Tommy Mulligan confirmed, he can't worsen the injury.
Mulligan said it's just a matter of how much pain St. Louis can stand.
"I think they were cautious in saying two to four weeks," St. Louis said before the game. "I think that's a realistic healing process of a broken finger.
"It will still hurt in four weeks, and then I will have wasted four weeks if I don't try it now. I just don't want to stay off the ice that long. I want to get out there and help my team win."
St. Louis also said he has a sense his game is coming around. The 2003-04 league MVP has just six goals and 14 points but with five and 12 in his past 12 games.
"And that's while I don't even feel like I'm there yet," he said of his game. "I know my start was terrible. If I can protect (the finger) and I can deal with some of the pain, I want to go back out there and help my teammates."
St. Louis wore a specially constructed glove with an expanded finger that accommodated a plastic splint and extra inside padding.
Mulligan said St. Louis' finger, which needed seven stitches during surgery to repair the nail bed, was wrapped in gauze and a jell sleeve for extra cushioning. The splint, which was curved to help St. Louis grip his stick, was wrapped with elastic tape.
"There's no risk. It's already broken," St. Louis said.
"It's just a matter of trying to deal with the pain. Why wait to figure out if you can deal with it. I'd rather try it now. I don't see why not."