SAN JOSE, Calif. — Whatever illness D Victor Hedman has, it was bad enough to keep the All-Star out of a third straight game on this make-or-break six-game road trip.
With the Lightning in "desperation mode," as coach Jon Cooper calls it, the team had to play without its top defenseman against the Sharks on Thursday night.
Hedman hasn't played since leaving warmups early before Monday's game against the Kings. Cooper had hoped Hedman would be ready by Thursday. And Hedman appeared to be getting better as he joined the team at the SAP Center in the morning, though he didn't participate in the skate.
When asked if Hedman would be back by Saturday against Arizona, Cooper said the Lightning is taking it "game by game."
"It's unfortunate," Cooper said.
The Lightning played really good defensive games Monday and Tuesday against the Ducks without Hedman. It allowed two regulation goals in those games — a win and an overtime loss — and seven in its previous four before Thursday.
HIS TURN: LW Joel Vermin was in Thursday's lineup, joining C Tyler Johnson and RW Alex Killorn on a line. Vermin replaced RW Erik Condra, who was scratched along with D Jake Dotchin.
Vermin, in his second callup this season, is more comfortable after playing eight NHL games this season. "I'm maybe not as nervous as I used to be," he said. "That helps, for sure. I feel like every game you learn something new. I'm just going to play my game. There's a reason why I got called up."
IN GOAL: After G Ben Bishop started back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday, Andrei Vasilevskiy started Thursday.
The NHL sent teams a memo Monday that said all goalies must be wearing the new streamlined pants by Feb. 4, but Bishop said he and Vasilevskiy have been wearing the pants since November. Bishop said the pants are more rounded on the leg but it don't impact his movements on the ice. "I can't tell the difference anymore," he said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: RW J.T. Brown (upper body) missed his sixth straight game. He skated again in a red noncontact jersey Thursday morning.
C Brayden Point (upper body) skated after practice, saying he had been on the ice three or four times since he got hurt Dec. 28. Point, who appears to have hurt his right hand or wrist, said he has been stick handling and shooting, too. His got hurt by a shot that hit him while in front of the Canadiens net. He was expected to miss four to six weeks; Wednesday was the three-week mark.
Point was feeling good about his rookie season, with three goals and 12 assists in 36 games. "I thought I was playing better as of recently before I got hurt," he said. "It's not what you want. But you can't let it get you down."