Hedman likely out vs Canadiens, Brewer good to go
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who suffered an upper body injury in the first period Tuesday, is expected to miss Thursday's game against the Canadiens (and possibly more).
Hedman fell into the boards and was shaken up and is day-to-day, though coach Guy Boucher isn't sure how long he'll be out.
"I'm going to church, going to light up some candles," Boucher quipped. "Hopefully it's not too long. He's a good player and we want him on the ice, but we want to be smart and are going to take the time that we need."
The good news for Tampa Bay is that defenseman Eric Brewer, who left Tuesday's game for eight minutes after taking several punches in a second period fight, is fine and will play Thursday; he said he only left the game because he was bleeding and referees made him fix his cut. He practiced Wednesday with no problems.
Even still, with Hedman - one of the team's top defensemen who plays a ton of minutes and is a key penalty killer - out, it further depletes a banged-up defense. Veteran Mattias Ohlund (knees) hasn't played, and though Matt Gilroy (lower body) is expected back Thursday, he hasn't played in a few weeks and isn't quite ready to shoulder a big load.
As a result, coach Guy Boucher says they'll have to adjust how they play, have forwards pinch back more, and possibly call up another defenseman from AHL Norfolk just in case.
"Ohlund is not replaceable, Hedman is not replaceable," Boucher said. "What you've got to do is see it a different way, as a younger coach I used to think you'll replace guys for a little while, that's not it. You've got to go with the strengths of other guys. You can't put the pressure on the other guys to do whatever those gusy were doing."
Ohlund and Hedman were players who faced opposing team's top lines. When Hedman was out previously, Gilroy stepped into that top pairing, but he won't be able to shoulder that burden a ton - especially right away. It'll force Boucher into some interesting defensive pairings, but it'll be easier than Tuesday night, when the Lightning had four defensemen for half a period.
That's when Brewer got into a fight with Flyers' Wayne Simmonds. Boucher said ideally, Brewer shouldn't have fought, knowing they needed him on the ice. But Boucher understood that the Flyers were trying to bait Brewer for that exact same reason, and "he's a proud guy, he's a warrior, and he got caught up in the emotion."
Brewer said it was just the way the game goes sometimes.
"It's hard for anybody," Boucher said. "When you're being challenged once, it's fine, twice, three times, you get to the point where it's on your nerves and you get the emotion. He's got to control his emotions better. I understand why he did it, but I also understand we need him on the ice, especially now."
In other injury news, C Nate Thompson (lower body) is improving, but still skated with a red jersey in practice and isn't certain to play Thursday against the Canadiens.
-- JOE SMITH