Philippe Roy was viewed as the final and most important piece of the puzzle for a new and improved Augusta Lynx defense that seemed poised to help the club make a serious push for a postseason berth.
Now, the Lynx must deal with the specter of continuing their quest for a playoff spot without Roy, who will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery today and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
"That's a huge blow for us," Lynx coach David Wilkie said. "He played great for us in the short time he was here and really solidified our team defensively."
Roy was injured during Saturday's loss at home to Columbia and left Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center on crutches.
The 26-year-old blueliner suffered a partially torn meniscus in his right knee. The recovery time from the surgery is three to four weeks, Wilkie said, meaning Roy won't be back unless the Lynx make the playoffs and advance past the wild-card round.
Acquired in a trade with the Johnstown Chiefs on Feb. 26, Roy scored three goals and added three assists and was plus-1 in eight games for Augusta. In 64 games overall, Roy tallied 36 points on 14 goals and 22 assists.
"It's just something we'll have to overcome," Wilkie said.
LEGG UP: So how did Wilkie fill the void left by Roy? He moved veteran winger Mike Legg to defense in Sunday's win over South Carolina, and Legg was impressive despite playing on the back line for the first time in his career.
"Wilks called me over before (Sunday's) game and got straight to the point," Legg said. "He asked if I'd ever played defense before. Never in my career. We tried it for the first period, and it went OK, so I played the whole game there. I'm happy to do whatever the team needs. It just feels like learning hockey all over again."
Wilkie was so impressed with Legg's performance Sunday that he made the switch permanent.
"He was tremendous (Sunday)," Wilkie said.
Along with the absence of Roy, rookie defenseman Ryan Murray remains out of the lineup with a separated shoulder.
Legg is being paired on the blue line with Jay Leach, and he said he'll try to keep it simple and "try not to make any mistakes."
THE PROSPECTS: With seven games left, including tonight's home match against Atlantic City, the Lynx know the margin for error is slim the rest of the way if they hope to catch Greenville for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Southeast Division.
Greenville will clinch the final spot with any combination of wins or Lynx losses equaling four. Wilkie believes Augusta must win "six of seven, and get some help" to make the postseason. The Lynx have not won more than two games in a row all season.
Augusta does have the schedule in its favor, with six of the final seven games at home, including two games vs. the Grrrowl - one home and one away.
"There's still hope, you hope, and you hope now's the time we can put a win streak together," Wilkie said. "The door's not shut on us yet. The guys showed their fortitude by winning Sunday after two tough losses at home. If we lost (Sunday at South Carolina), it would have been over."
ONE-TIMERS: Atlantic City is billed as a speedy team with lots of offensive firepower. "They run and gun, and are a very talented club," Wilkie said. ... Said rookie defenseman Ryan Crane, who played for Atlantic City at the end of last season and in the playoffs: "They have a great program, finishing top five in the league in their two seasons. (Coach Mike Haviland) is a good guy and very good coach, and they have a lot of older, veteran guys that makes them tough to beat." ... Lynx minority owner Mark Vieira is scheduled to arrive in town today to begin the next round of lease negotiations with the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority. ... More than $10,000 was raised for the Augusta Lynx Foundation with Saturday's Margaritaville Jersey auction. Forward Tyson Holly's jersey fetched the highest price, $1,450. Legg's jersey was second, at $975.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.