PITTSBURGH — The Lightning will have to find its way without Andrei Vasilevskiy. Coach Jon Cooper said Thursday the goaltender is out indefinitely after being injured during practice.
"Until we hear from our doctors," Cooper said, "we have no other comment at this time."
Louis Domingue will be the starter while Vasilevskiy is out — he started Thursday's 4-3 win over the Penguins — and the Lightning recalled Eddie Pasquale from AHL Syracuse to back him up.
Domingue said Vasilevskiy broke a foot at practice Wednesday.
"The guy breaks his foot and couldn't walk right after," Domingue said. "Then he puts some ice on it and says he's good to go. I always said it would take a lot for this guy not to play, injury-wise. They almost have to force him out."
Vasilevskiy had a planned night off Tuesday against the Sabres. He left practice early Wednesday but later walked around the dressing room without any visible support on one foot as he went through his stretches.
Vasilevskiy left Pittsburgh to return to Tampa to be re-evaluated.
"Every team needs capable backups, and we feel we have one," Cooper said of Domingue. "He's been a starter in this league before, and he's done nothing but impress ever since he's been here. We're going to need him now, obviously, and we'll see how it goes."
Vasilevskiy has been a big part of the Lightning's success. Teammates and Cooper have called him one of the best goalies in the world.
His nine wins entered Thursday tied for second in the league, though his save percentage (.927) and goals-against average (2.29) were 10th and ninth, respectively.
"He makes thoughtful saves that are grade-A-plus, down and out," defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "A lot of goalies make those saves, but he makes them on a regular basis. I think that's what puts him in the upper echelon of the best goalies in the world."
The Lightning feels good about Domingue, however. Situations like this are why they acquired him from the Coyotes last season, Cooper said.
"People always look at the starting goaltender, but who is going to win you those games that are going to help you get into the playoffs?" he said.
Domingue looked good against Buffalo in the 2-1 loss, though he would like another chance at the five-hole shot that won it for the Sabres. He made a few great saves early in particular, including one on Sam Reinhart from point-blank range that kept the game in reach.
"It's good to be playing after last game," Domingue said. "I feel we left something on the table, or at least I did. To lose on a five-hole goal, it's not ideal."
He entered Thursday having allowed 17 goals in five games this season, but seven were in a 7-1 loss to Arizona in October.
"I feel good," he said. "I feel like I'm doing the little things in practice to improve my game and keeping it sharp. I feel like our team can do a lot of good things, and it's going to be interesting to see how this works out. But it's a fun challenge, and I'm going to embrace it."
Domingue is the latest player to have to step up because of an injury. He pointed to defenseman Slater Koekkoek, who hadn't played this season until Victor Hedman was hurt against the Golden Knights on Oct. 26. The whole defensive corps took on different roles and minimized the loss.
Coburn said there isn't a big difference between playing in front Domingue and playing in front of Vasilevskiy. Both goalies communicate well, which is key, and the lingo is simple by design to mitigate a change.
There's a little bit of a difference in that Domingue catches right and shoots left, the opposite of Vasilevskiy. Domingue does play the puck a bit more, but that should open play up for the offense more than it affects how its defends.
The Lightning hopes Domingue's reference to Hedman's injury is a fitting one. It did well while the star defenseman was out.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at [email protected] Follow @dianacnearhos.