TAMPA — Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who suffered an upper-body injury in the first period Tuesday against the Flyers, is expected to miss tonight's game against the Canadiens and potentially more.
Hedman, who fell into the boards, is officially "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 said Wednesday. "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 defenseman Eric Brewer, who left Tuesday's game temporarily after taking several punches in a second-period fight, is fine and will play tonight. He said he left only because he was bleeding and referees made him fix the cut. He practiced Wednesday with no problems.
Even still, with Hedman being one of the Lightning's key penalty killers and whose average ice time of 22:28 is second on the team, his absence further depletes a banged-up defense. Veteran Mattias Ohlund (knees) has been out all season, and though Matt Gilroy (lower body) is expected back tonight, he hasn't played since Dec. 15 and isn't ready to shoulder a big load.
As a result, coach Boucher says he will have to adjust his system and have forwards be more vigilant defensively. In addition, a defenseman likely will be called up 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 guys were doing."
Defenseman Pavel Kubina said other guys have to step up and be smart, shortening shifts if necessary so they can shoulder a larger load. However, it will be easier than Tuesday, when the Lightning had only four defensemen for half a period.
That's when Brewer got into a fight with the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds. Boucher said ideally, Brewer shouldn't have fought, knowing the team needed him on the ice. But Boucher understood the Flyers were trying to bait Brewer for that 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."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org