Hedman back in the lineup tonight against the Predators
Lightning coach Jon Cooper hinted that defenseman Victor Hedman would be ready for tonight's game with the Predators. He made it official at the morning skate, and it was clear he was thrilled to have the 6-foot-6 Swede back in the lineup.
"Well, he's our best defenseman," Cooper said. "He plays on the power play. He plays penalty kill. He plays 25 minutes a night. He was playing exceptional for us."
Hedman, who missed six games with a lower body injury, has six goals, 15 points in 28 games, which puts him well on the way to his best offensive season. And he actually only plays and average 21:19. But it is the way Hedman has become more confident in the defensive zone that has made him so valuable.
As Cooper pointed out, Tampa Bay gave up an inordinate amount of odd-man rushes in Tuesday's 3-2 shootout victory over the Islanders, something the team had gotten a fairly good handle on during the season.
"We think we were digressing a little," Cooper said. "We addressed that this morning and, hopefully, Victor will help us a little bit in that regard."
For Hedman, who turned 23 on Wednesday, his first game back will be about recovering his timing.
"Missing six games, coming in taking the first shift and taking the first shift to get everything back to where it was, and go from there."
Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected, Anders Lindback will get the start in net against his former team. ... Defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote, signed on Wednesday to a two-year, two-way contract, will play. ... Forward Tom Pyatt (collarbone) skated with a regular jersey and is expected to be ready Saturday against the Hurricanes. ... Cooper reiterated on Thursday the team signed Cote because it is looking for "a little more bite on our back end. He's hard to play in front of the net. He has that kind of mentality. Players will think twice before they come cruising into the crease. He's a man. He's not afraid of that game." Cote, 31, whose only NHL experience is eight games for the Canadiens in the 2005-06 season, said, "I have little butterflies in my stomach, for sure. It's been a long road in between from the last time I was up in the NHL. It feels not unreal, but really nice to be here." As for what he brings to the Lightning, Cote said, "Play physical, hard to play against, finish my hits, block some shots, winning battles in the corner. That's what I'm going to focus on." ... According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Lightning's 3-2 shootout victory marked the first time in team history the team won a game in which it trailed by two goals in the final three minutes. The Lightning last scored a tying goal in the final five seconds of a game on Nov. 18, 1995, when Alexander Selivanov tied the Canucks 4-4 with three seconds left. Tampa Bay won that game 5-4 in overtime.