Already dealing with injuries to Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, the last thing the Lightning could afford was another injury. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, they weren’t able to escape their final game without another injury, and it could be a big one.
Late in the first period of Saturday’s season finale against the Canadiens, Tyler Johnson was heading towards the Montreal goal when netminder Mike Condon covered the puck. As the whistle blew, Johnson was checked by Canadiens defenseman Greg Pateryn and the hit sent Johnson hard and awkwardly into the boards. Johnson remained down on the ice for a few moments before eventually being helped off the ice by the training staff:
Johnson didn’t return for the duration of the first period, and he was not with the Lightning when the second period began. Minutes into the second frame, Tampa Bay announced that Johnson had suffered an upper-body injury and would be unable to return to the contest.
Johnson has taken a big step back from 2014-15’s 29-goal, 72-point campaign, but the 25-year-old has still put up a respectable 14 goals and 38 points in 68 games. Johnson started the season recuperating from a wrist injury suffered during the Stanley Cup final, and he remains an incredibly important part of the Lightning offense, averaging more than 17 minutes per game and taking regular shifts on both special teams units.
If Johnson remains out of the lineup or is sidelined for any length of time, it thins out an already ailing Lightning forward group. Tampa Bay called up winger Jonathan Drouin when injuries hit Callahan and Hedman, but the Lightning don’t have many other NHL ready options, and especially not any who can easily replace Johnson.
The Lightning will have at least a couple of days for Johnson to rest up and with the playoffs approaching it’s unlikely a full update will be given on his status unless it’s a season-ending or long-term ailment.