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Lightning's Hedman (ill) returns after three-game absence

Defenseman Victor Hedman missed the first three games of the Lightning’s six-game trip after feeling ill Monday.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Defenseman Victor Hedman missed the first three games of the Lightning’s six-game trip after feeling ill Monday.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — D Victor Hedman is finally back.

The All-Star returned to the Lightning lineup for Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Coyotes after missing three games with an illness.

But fellow D Jason Garrison had to sit out because he is now sick.

Though Hedman declined to elaborate on what ailed him, clearly it was bad enough for him to be sidelined for the first three games of a make-or-break six-game trip. Hedman tried to play Monday in Los Angeles but left warmups early.

"It's tough to go through," Hedman said. "Probably the first time I've been sick like this."

Hedman said he started to feel better Thursday, when he could finally get a workout in. On Friday he was a full participant in practice. Hedman said his teammates played "incredible" without him, allowing just four regulation goals in the three games, which the Lightning went 1-1-1.

"Guys stepped up and shared the load and put us in position to win games," coach Jon Cooper said. "It shows that if you play good team defense — and I emphasize team — it shouldn't matter how many guys come in and out" of the lineup.

KUCH CONTROL: With the Lightning struggling to score last and trailing by goal Thursday, RW Nikita Kucherov had a 2-on-1 with D Luke Witkowski.

Kucherov passed, and the rush was thwarted. Kucherov, the team's leading scorer, has been passing a little too much lately, including racking up zero shots on goal in Thursday's 2-1 loss in San Jose.

In the four games before Saturday, Kucherov had as many shots (eight) as fourth-line wing Gabriel Dumont. But he had six against the Coyotes, though none resulted in a goal.

"The one thing with 'Kuch,' we've talked with him, he's got to shoot more," Cooper said. "He's somebody that knows how to put the puck in the net and is probably being a little too unselfish and trying to set up other guys, which he's done a heck of job of. And the other guys aren't finishing as well.

"When he's got the puck on his stick, you want him to pull the trigger. And if he does that a little bit more, things will go well for him."

Kucherov has said it's a habit dating to his days growing up in Russia to always look to set up teammates if they're open. He still has a team-high 17 goals, but just two in the past nine.

HIS TURN: With Garrison out, Jake Dotchin made his NHL debut as the team's seventh defenseman.

Dotchin had been a healthy scratch the past two games since getting called up Tuesday from AHL Syracuse. The 2012 sixth-round draft pick became the 34th different player to play for the Lightning this season.

ON THE MOVE: RW Erik Condra was placed on waivers for the second time this season. If he clears, he will report to Syracuse. The move could mean RW J.T. Brown (upper body) is closer to a return. He practiced last week in a red noncontact jersey. He missed his seventh straight game.

NUTS AND BOLTS: LW Joel Vermin was a healthy scratch. … The team's annual rookie dinner is today in Arizona, and at least C Brayden Point will have help with the tab with Dotchin, Vermin and RW Gabriel Dumont on the trip. Quipped veteran D Braydon Coburn: "It's a rite of passage."

Lightning's Hedman (ill) returns after three-game absence 01/21/17 [Last modified: Saturday, January 21, 2017 11:29pm]
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