Hedman might be on track for Thursday return
Good news for the Lightning as injured defenseman Victor Hedman might be ready to play Thursday at home against the Predators.
Hedman (lower body) will miss his sixth game tonight at the Islanders but moved well during the morning skate, his first full team practice since he was injured Dec. 5 versus Ottawa by a check into the boards.
After the skate, coach Jon Cooper said it was possible Hedman could play against the Predators. Hedman said it depends on how his body reacts to Tuesday's skate and Wednesday's expected practice.
"Obviously," Hedman said, "a big step forward."
How much has Tampa Bay missed Hedman? Consider he is second on the team with an average 21:19 of ice time, is a mainstay on the penalty kill and the power play and with six goals, 15 points in 28 games is on track for his best offensive season.
"He's a horse for us back there," Cooper said. "Of course we miss him But you can't complain. There can't be any excuses. We have to find a way."
"I'm not going to go out there only because I want to," Hedman said. "I don't want to risk anything. I'm going to make sure I'm 100 percent. But today feels good, and if nothing happens during the day today or tomorrow, I don't know. I just want to get back as soon as possible. BUt I need to feel 100 percent."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Ben Bishop gets the start in net tonight against the Islanders. ... Right wing B.J. Crombeen comes back into the lineup tonight for Dana Tyrell. Pierre-Cedric Labrie is the other scratch. ... The Lightning power play continues to struggle and is now 6-for-66 (9 percent) over its past 21 games. That said, Cooper said he believes the power play is making progress. "You watch us in practice, we look like the '76 Russians," Cooper said. "But it's coming. You can feel it. Our problem has been getting into the zone, and that's what's hurt us. But we have a pretty good mind-set. We've talked at length the past couple of days, so I like where our heads are at." Captain Marty St. Louis said pretty much the same thing. "The good sign of life I feel we have right now is our attitude towards it," He said. "We all want to make it better, including the staff. We're not just waiting. We're trying to make it better, and that's a good sign." More specifically, St. Louis said it would help to win some more power-play faceoffs. That would eliminate some of the necessity of trying to get back into the offensive zone, which Cooper said has been a problem. It's a good point. Through the 21-game power-play skid, Tampa Bay has won just 49 of 106 power-play faceoffs, 46.2 percent. ... Cooper, if you didn't know, attended Hofstra University, where he played four seasons of lacrosse and also played club hockey out of the next-door Nassau Coliseum. "I just happened to be a better lacrosse player than I was a hockey player," Cooper said, adding some old college buddies will be at tonight's game. "We have to put on a good show for them," he said. ... Cooper said not to be fooled by the Islanders 9-19-6 record and that they are at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. "It's a team that's just trying to find itself a little bit," Cooper said. "We know what they're capable of. As I told the guys, don't even think of looking in the standings because this isn't the team you're seeing in that spot. We have to be on our toes or this is going to be a long night for us."