BRANDON — Victor Hedman is hard to miss on the ice. The 6-foot-6, 223-pound defenseman was a welcome sight for the Lightning at the Ice Sports Forum on Wednesday.
It was his first practice with the team since suffering an upper-body injury on a hit by Vegas' Ryan Reaves on Oct. 26. Hedman has missed six games and had skated a few times on his own and after practice before Wednesday.
Coach Jon Cooper said Hedman would not be in the lineup for tonight's game against the Islanders at Amalie Arena but he would return in the near future.
On the awkward but clean check from Reaves, Hedman crashed into the boards at an odd angle, with his right shoulder appearing to bear most of the contact.
The Lightning has managed without its defending Norris Trophy winner. It has gotten contributions across the defensive corps, including goals from Braydon Coburn and Slater Koekkoek. Ryan McDonagh has played in many scenarios that he hadn't been in with Hedman in the lineup. He has done everything asked of him. But Hedman brings something to the offense that no other defenseman on the team can match.
Ondrej Palat is not advancing as well as Hedman after being hurt against Vegas blocking a shot. He was expected to return first but is still four weeks away.
"Palat is probably a few weeks away," Cooper said. "He wasn't progressing the way we liked, so we shut it down here for a little bit."
Cooper said Palat needs rest, not surgery.