TAMPA - Not long ago, Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski were passing around a glass Russian figurine of a rabbit for good luck, rotating it among the linemates until each one scored. But it seems someone has been sticking pins in a voodoo doll of all three this season.
MacArthur came back in the lineup Tuesday in Tampa after three games out with an upper body injury, after various other aches and pains and a two-game league suspension to start the year. Grabovski is out at least another week with a leg injury. And Kulemin, the healthy one, has not scored in 15 games. With new centre Tim Connolly, MacArthur’s luck changed immediately, a goal 41 seconds in, though he did get a six-stitch cut on his chin.
“It has been a tough start, getting little injuries, getting out of rhthym,” MacArthur said. “It will be nice to get healthy. Our one line (Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak) has been great this year. We need to step up as a second line.
Six other Leafs are injured and that curse gets mentioned when they gathered in the training room or in a separate practice group.
“We talk about it a little bit, that it’s good we get it out of the way now and hope that it doesn’t return,” MacArthur said. “It’s tough to watch when the team is out there struggling and you’re short men.”
LOMBO WON’T LIE LOW
The Leafs are going to let forward Matthew Lombardi try to rehab a suspected shoulder separation rather than opt for surgery. A published report Tuesday said Lombardi could not avoid an eventual operation.
“I would guess he’s out three and a half to four weeks and I would expect him to come back,” coach Ron Wilson said.
Defenceman Mike Komisarek, who was operated on Monday for a broken arm, will be out at least two months. For salary cap purposes, any player who misses 10 NHL regular season games and 24 consecutive days through injury will qualify for long term exception. That means the team is then able to replace him with one or more players making up his salary.
TURN THE MUSIC DOWN
Dwayne Roloson, the Lightning’s 42-year-old goalie and longest-serving active NHLer, says his elder status is something of an “oxymoron” in the room. Yes he gets respect, but he doesn’t always understand players half his age.
“One thing I won’t do is go and touch the (dressing room) radio,” Roloson said. “But it’s pretty bad when the music comes on and it’s what my kids are listening to at home.”
BOLTED TO THEIR SEATS
The Lightning are at 98.7% capacity at the 19,204-seat St. Pete Times Forum, remarkable in a state where unemployment is higher than 10%.
In eight home games entering Tuesday they have had five sellouts, and are averaging 18,951 tickets sold per game, compared to 17,269 last season. They have been helped by their trip to the Eastern Conference final last spring and a new game-night presentation that features an old-time organist and a coil contraption that creates authentic-looking lightning in the rafters whenever they score.