WINNIPEG – D Victor Hedman returned to the ice with his team during today's morning skate. He did not wear the red "no contact" jersey and he was reunited with Jake Dotchin on the top defensive pairing.
All were indications that Hedman, who suffered a lower body injury three weeks ago, is ready to return to the lineup.
Coach Jon Cooper said Hedman will be a game-time decision tonight when the Lightning resume the schedule against the Jets at the Bell MTS Place.
"It's been encouraging, so we'll see what happens," Cooper said.
Hedman, who participated in several puck-battling drills at the end of today's practice, said how the injury feels when he returns to the rink late this afternoon will determine if he plays.
When asked if he feels ready to return tonight, Hedman said, "Yeah, I am ready to play, but it's all about getting the reps in. Being ready to play is one thing. It's about being able to contribute on the ice. I got to make sure I feel 100 percent before that. Today was a good step in the right direction."
Hedman has missed five games. The Lightning lost the first two without him but won the last three heading into the All-Star Break.
Back-up Louis Domingue will make his third start for the Lightning. He won his first two, beating Detroit and Nashville on the road.
The Lightning (34-12-3) return from the break with the NHL's best record and the most points (71).
The Jets, meanwhile, open a 10-game homestand with games against the Lightning and Golden Knights (67 points) – the top-two teams in the league.
G Michael Hutchinson, who played in Monday's AHL All-Star Game, will make his first start of the season tonight for the Jets in place of all-star Connor Hellebuyck. Hellebuyck started 12 of the Jets last 13 games and spent the weekend in Tampa for the all-star festivities.