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Defenseman Victor Hedman, cut by skate against Capitals, will play tonight



Tampa Bay Lightning rookie defenseman Victor Hedman got praise from coach Rick Tocchet for returning to action Sunday against the Capitals after sustaining a fairly significant cut on his left thigh above his knee. Hedman said he was cut by a skate blade and needed "eight to 10" stitches. He missed 13 minutes of the first period and will play tonight against the Thrashers.

It's been a tough stretch for Hedman, who is trying to regain the stellar form he showed for the first part of the season. Trying to make improvements while overcoming hurts is difficult.

"I just want to feel 100 percent," he said. "I can still play. I'm just trying to get my confidence back."

As for his injury, he said, "It's going to hurt a little, but I want to play a lot and get my confidence back. This is no time to rest."

Hedman, 19, has not had a point in eight games and is minus-4 in that stretch to fall to minus-5 for the season. He was even scratched Jan. 21 against the Maple Leafs. But Tocchet said he sees the big Swede moving in the right direction.

"He had a little issue there and he came back," Tocchet said of the gash on Hedman's leg. "Some guys might not come back. He did. To me it's a process. it shows you a lot about him. It's good to see a kid play with bumps and bruises."

Other stuff from the morning skate: As Tocchet said, Antero Niittymaki, 15-0-0 against the Thrashers, will be in net. ... Seems like either LW Todd Fedoruk or RW Brandon Bochenski will be scratched. ... RW Steve Downie was seen taking a lot of practice one-timers from the faceoff circle, leading to the question if he was going to get a chance to play there on a power play. But Downie said that was just him fooling around. "Just me trying stuff out," he said. "I have an awful shot." ... Tocchet stressed he needs more offense from the blue line. Not including seven goals from Kurtis Foster, who plays some at forward and the point on the power play, Tampa Bay has just 10 goals from defensemen. "You can't play three against five in this league. It's tough," Tocchet said. "You want to play as five-man units. Would we like the D to join the rush? Yeah, at the appropriate time. But I don't want the D to get up there so much that you're getting odd-man rushes against. You've just got to let it happen. But we've talked about it. They know we need more offense from them back there. One notable defenseman without a goal is Mattias Ohlund, who had 39 the previous four seasons with the Canucks. "If you're playing 20-plus minutes, you'd like to get some offense off those guys," Tocchet said. But that also means Andrej Meszaros who has just four goals, Hedman, who also has four and Mike Lundin, who is averaging 20:26 but has just one and one assist in 21 games. ...  If Monday's practice lines were any indication, Stephane Veilleux has been moved up to a line with center Vinny Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay. ... Center Nate Thompson, who has played extremely well since being claimed off waivers from the Islanders, was on a third line with Ryan Malone and Jeff Halpern. 

[Last modified: Thursday, March 4, 2010 12:15am]


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