TAMPA – Defenseman Ryan McDonagh may be closer to making his Lightning debut than originally thought.
Could it be Saturday against the Canadiens?
McDonagh on Friday participated in his first full practice without a red noncontact jersey since being acquired by the Lightning in a Feb. 26 trade-deadline deal with the Rangers.
McDonagh, cleared for contact, went through all the drills, including getting work on the penalty kill. He said a final X-ray on his injured right hand was good Thursday.
"I feel comfortable going out there competing, playing the way that is expected of us here," McDonagh said. "So it's exciting. Hopefully it happens soon."
McDonagh, who hasn't played since Feb. 8, said he wasn't sure if he would play Saturday against Montreal, having had only three practices with the Lightning (one with contact).
Coach Jon Cooper has said the Lightning expects McDonagh to return next week, either Tuesday against Ottawa or March 17 against Boston.
But with fellow former Ranger J.T. Miller – acquired in the same trade – having played five games for Tampa Bay, McDonagh is getting antsy to make an impact.
"Changing to a new team, you're excited, you want to get comfortable around the guys and up to speed with how things are done here and the way they play," McDonagh said. "It's been a big challenge there mentally. But at the same time, I'm just trying to control what I can and get healthy so I can go out and play when the time is ready."