GLENDALE, Ariz. — Through the first eight games of the season, a good part of the Lightning's success was because it had stayed relatively healthy. But that run of good luck ended in a big way in the ninth game when the injury bug bit two key players.
D Victor Hedman and LW Ondrej Palat missed Saturday night's game against the Coyotes after being injured in the 3-2 victory against the Golden Knights on Friday.
Hedman's injury appears to be the more serious. The defending Norris Trophy winner will be out at least a week after crashing into the boards following a heavy check by Vegas' Ryan Reaves. Hedman will be re-evaluated in a week, the Lightning said.
Palat is day-to-day after blocking a shot with his foot.
Both are pivotal to the Lightning's success, especially Hedman. A case could be made that after G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Hedman is the team's most important player.
Though Hedman's injury is listed as upper body, it appears to specifically be his right shoulder. Hedman fell awkwardly into the boards on the check. Cooper indicated that he didn't think Hedman would be out for a significant amount of time.
"He could be back in a week or it could be a little bit after that,'' Cooper said before the game. "It's nothing to be concerned in the long term about.''
But Hedman will be missed for however long he is out. "He eats so many minutes,'' Cooper said. "Now other guys are going to have to eat some more minutes.''
Look for Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman, in particular, to see an increased workload.
"We're not sitting here expecting anybody to be Victor Hedman,'' Cooper said. "There's only one.''
It is a chance, however, for 2012 first-round draft pick Slater Koekkoek to finally get into the lineup after being a healthy scratch the first nine games.
"He has been a good defenseman in the league,'' Cooper said. "It has just been a logjam back there, and he hasn't be able to get in.''
With Hedman sidelined, the Lightning needed a little depth on the blue line, so it called up Cameron Gaunce from AHL Syracuse. Gaunce, 28, has played six games in Syracuse this season with a goal, two assists and nine penalty minutes.
Good or bad hit?
There was some discussion, at least on Twitter, about whether Reaves' hit on Hedman was clean. Hedman had just passed the puck off his backhand when the check sent Hedman into a helicopter motion and into the boards. Though definitely a hard hit, it was clean. It wasn't too late, and it wasn't too high. Reaves' shoulder connected with Hedman's shoulder. Hedman was simply offbalance and Reaves caught him at just the right spot to send him flying.
Cooper is a sports fan, so yes, he is keeping tabs on the World Series. He watches as a fan, but he also is interested in how managers in baseball and coaches in other sports handle their teams.
"Have I talked to other coaches in other leagues? Yes,'' Cooper said. "Regardless of the sport, we all have the same issues. It all comes down to personalities and chemistry and all those underlying things that coaches have to figure out.''
Cooper said it doesn't matter whether the stars are on a baseball field, on a basketball court or at the rink.
"The stars are still the stars; the pluggers are still the pluggers,'' Cooper said. "And you still have to manage them all. So it's good to talk to other coaches.''
If you're a Lightning fan and ever want to root for a Western Conference team now and then, how about the Coyotes? Arizona's coaching staff has a couple of Lightning connections.
Rick Tocchet, who was head coach of the Lightning for two seasons, is in his second season as head coach of the Coyotes. Tocchet was a Lightning assistant and was promoted to head coach when Barry Melrose's wreck of a coaching comeback ended after 16 games in 2008.
Meantime, Arizona's goalie coach is Corey Schwab, who played 87 games over three seasons with the Lightning from 1996-99. He also was a goalie development coach and scout for the Lightning from 2005-08.
There was a moment of silence before the game in honor of those who lost their lives in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting Saturday.