TAMPA -- If the Tampa Bay Lightning manage to take a 3-0 series lead in this Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, it's a safe bet they will dedicate the victory to one very special member of their organization.
While the Lightning spent Tuesday morning preparing for Game 3 at the St. Pete Times Forum, assistant coach Wayne Fleming was undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor. Fleming, 60, was diagnosed with the malignant tumor last month. He also had surgery on April 7, a strong indication of just how serious his condition is.
Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher admitted to reporters that Fleming was mentioned during Tuesday morning's meeting -- the club did not take the ice -- and how secondary this game becomes when something as potentially devastating as what's happened to Fleming becomes reality.
"We did bring it up, but it wasn't to draw for inspiration," Boucher said. "I think we brought it up to make sure the players are aware what's going on. It's not something we want to hide. It's obviously a very, very serious operation. To be honest with you, I can't wait to see how it went. It's a very tough day for him (and) for his family and for our team. We care about the man. Hockey's way behind all that."
Although he's been away from the team, Fleming has managed to remain very much involved. He's constantly sending text messages to Boucher during games and to players afterwards to provide his input. Fleming was in charge of the penalty kill before being forced the leave the club. Washington is 0-for-11 via the man advantage in this series.
"What he's going through right now, obviously our prayers are with him," said captain Vincent Lecavalier, who scored the overtime winner in Sunday's Game 2. "I've known him for many years. He's a great man. I hope everything goes well for him."
Lightning center Steven Stamkos said he's heard from Fleming during this series. The 21-year-old said he's been blown away by Fleming's ability to remain positive during what has to be a very draining and emotional process.
"I think we use it as inspiration," Stamkos said. "Flemmer's been a huge part of our team since Day One. We're obviously aware of the situation. When we were made aware from the get-go, it was just simply inspiration. Everyone is praying for him and his family. Your thoughts are with him, but after every game he's texting guys. He's watching the games and he's still a big part of this team. For him to be battling through that knowing what him and his family are going through shows the type of person that he is. That definitely trickles down to every single player on this team. We know he's going through a tough battle, but we have faith in him and we use it as motivation.
"The guys that I've talked to, they've all gotten texts and they're all different. He's gone out of his way to remain positive and send constructive criticism to guys. It's pretty amazing for him to do that. We're all pulling for him."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL