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Path appears clear for Andrei Vasilevskiy to return for Lightning

The reassignment of Eddie Pasquale could be a good sign for Vasilevskiy.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) could return to play for Thursday's matchup against Toronto. DIRK SHADD | Times
Published Dec. 11, 2018
Updated Dec. 11, 2018

TAMPA — Thursday's marquee matchup against Toronto may just have gotten a little bit more interesting with the path cleared for Andrei Vasilevskiy's return in net.

The Lightning reassigned goaltender Eddie Pasquale to AHL Syracuse on Tuesday without bringing up a player. The rules say a team needs two healthy goalies on the roster, so that means Vasilevskiy must be healthy.

Wednesday will mark exactly four weeks since Vasilevskiy fractured his left foot. At the time, he was expected to be out four to six weeks.

Vasilevskiy started skating last week, and Lightning coach Jon Cooper said there was no change to the original timeline. He also said Vasilevskiy skating was the start to a long process, but it seems that process went quickly.

He has had about a week of skating, but no full practices with the team. Vasilevskiy skated in two morning skates (Saturday and Monday, the former of which was optional). Wednesday's practice will be his first full session. The team was off on Tuesday.

You might think the team would have wanted to see Vasilevskiy in a full practice, taking real shots, before making a move. But with no need to rush him back, the team must be confident in his condition.

The Lightning has no need to rush Vasilevskiy back with how well Louis Domingue has been playing (seven goals allowed in his last four games and six straight wins) But it would make an exciting game between the conference's No. 1 and 2 teams even more so to have one of the NHL's best goalies back.

If Vasilevskiy is healthy enough to play backup, then he's healthy enough to start.