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Foot could KO Lecavalier

Lightning captain will have a bone scan today or Monday after overnight swelling makes walking nearly impossible.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 14, 2001


TAMPA -- Vinny Lecavalier's left foot was so swollen Saturday, the Lightning center jokingly referred to it as an "elephant's paw."

Everybody chuckled. But what is being described -- for now, anyway -- as a deep bone bruise is no laughing matter.

The Lightning's 20-year-old captain is on crutches and is almost certainly out for tonight's game against the Stars at the Ice Palace.

He could be out much longer.

Head medical trainer Dave Boyer said Lecavalier will have a bone scan today or Monday. If it shows a bruise, Boyer said Lecavalier could be out three to five days. If there is a fracture or a chip, it could be two weeks.

"For sure, I want to play against Dallas," Lecavalier said. "If I can skate, I'm playing."

Lecavalier suffered the injury with 7:23 remaining in the first period of Friday night's 3-0 loss to the Flyers when he took a slap shot off the top of his foot. He had to be helped to the dressing room.

Lecavalier returned later in the period after spending 15 minutes walking off the pain. He said he did not take off his skate because he knew the foot would swell.

Boyer said X-rays were negative, but the bone scan will be more definitive.

There is no question about the pain. Lecavalier said it took him 15 minutes to make the short walk to his car Friday night. When he awoke Saturday, he said walking was impossible.

The foot also swelled to elephantine proportions.

"It's huge," he said. "It's so ugly, I don't even want to look at it."

The injury comes at a crucial time for Lecavalier. He is tied for the team lead with 34 points on 15 goals and 19 assists, but has just one goal in his past 16 games.

There are signs, though, he is coming out of his funk. He played one of his best games in a while during Wednesday night's 3-1 victory over the Maple Leafs. And he played with plenty of jump Friday night before he was hurt, though he missed some prime scoring chances.

"Although it's a tough time for him right now, he's still made some pretty good offensive plays," coach John Tortorella said. "He's attempting to do the other things to get out of this."

With Lecavalier off the ice Friday night, Tortorella used Martin St. Louis on the line with Brad Richards and Ryan Johnson. The coach said he is not sure who will step in tonight if Lecavalier can't go.

"Obviously, he's one of our best players," St. Louis said. "When he's out, I think some of the guys will be put in a situation to make up for his absence. It's a good chance to respond."

"This is when guys have to step up," forward Wayne Primeau said.

"You get an opportunity to play more and we have to take advantage of that."

Lecavalier has been extremely durable in his two-plus NHL seasons, missing just two games at the end of last season with a bruised Achilles' tendon.

Asked if he had missed games before that, Lecavalier had to stop and think. He said couldn't remember any from his two seasons in juniors.

"Bantams," he finally said. "I missed two weeks because of a knee. I missed three or four games."

Lecavalier has been battle-scarred this season.

As a precaution, he missed four of five preseason games because of a hyperextended elbow. He broke a nose Nov. 10 against Montreal at the Ice Palace after Martin Rucinsky inadvertently hit him with his stick. He took 14 stitches across his upper lip Dec. 1 against the Thrashers after teammate Gordie Dwyer inadvertently checked him along the Ice Palace boards.

And he sustained a strained neck Jan. 7 at Chicago when he went face-first into the knee of a linesman. That injury was supposed to keep Lecavalier out of Wednesday night's game at Toronto, but he made a game-time decision to play.

"Vinny's a competitor," St. Louis said. "He's got to be real bad for him not to play.

"He can play 80 to 85 percent and still make a difference."

The way Lecavalier's foot looked Saturday, those percentages seemed a little out of reach.

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