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Lightning ‘hoping and praying’ Victor Hedman injury not long-term

Lightning star defenseman had to be helped into dressing room early in the second period
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) and Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) work together to put together a play from the Lightning zone during the third period of Saturday’s (11/18/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) and Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) work together to put together a play from the Lightning zone during the third period of Saturday’s (11/18/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Published Jan. 12, 2018
Updated Jan. 12, 2018

Lightning All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman left Thursday's game seven minutes into the second period with a lower body injury. He didn't return.

It didn't look good.

Hedman, 27, had to be helped into the Tampa Bay dressing room after his left knee buckled in a collision with Flames' Garnet Hathaway. Hathaway entered the Lightning zone when Hedman approached him, the two players banging knees.

Coach Jon Cooper said they won't know the severity of Hedman's injury until he undergoes tests Friday. But this one looked bad. And his teammates knew it.

"Obviously when a guy can't really put a weight on his leg and doesn't come back, especially (Hedman) who battles through a lot of stuff, it didn't look very good," captain Steven Stamkos said. "Obviously we're hoping and praying for the best news. We'll have to wait and see."

Though the Lightning has four All-Stars, Hedman is one player it cannot afford to lose for a prolonged period. Hedman, a Norris Trophy finalist last season, has been playing his best hockey of the season, a plus-22 since Dec. 1. He averages nearly 26 minutes a game, a force at both ends of the ice.

We have some elite players on this team, but on the back end, he's our rock back there," Cooper said. "He plays nearly half the game, and in all situations. He can help dictate the play of how we're doing things. It's not like we haven't lost him before, but the big worry would be if it's long-term. It's hard to say."

The Lightning could have already used a boost in its top-four – on the right side- before any injury to Hedman.

Tampa Bay opens a five-day bye week Friday.