TAMPA — Though D Victor Hedman did not play Saturday night, the Lightning remained optimistic he wouldn't be out for very long.
Hedman, whose head slammed hard into the boards on a hit by the Stars' Jamie Benn on Thursday, did not skate with the team for the second straight day. Coach Jon Cooper didn't offer details on the injury, nor was he able to confirm whether it was a concussion.
"He's day to day, and that's probably the best way I can put it," Cooper said. "He's out (against the Sabres), but after that … and I don't want to speculate how … but he's feeling better."
HIS CHANCE: With Hedman out and D Nikita Nesterov suspended two games for a hit that sent the Stars' Curtis McKenzie to the hospital, D Slater Koekkoek was called up from AHL Syracuse. "I was smiling ear to ear," he said. "I was pumped."
Koekkoek's parents flew in from his Ottawa-area hometown to catch his first regular-season game at Amalie Arena. Koekkoek said playing three NHL games last season helped ease his nerves and he has calmed his game as a pro.
"People always described me in (junior hockey) as being an 'unleashed kind of stallion.' It's probably pretty accurate," Koekkoek said. "I think I've kind of put the reins on a little bit. I don't want to lose that ever, but just kind of pick my spots."
Cooper said Koekkoek's skating ability and aggressiveness are among his biggest assets: "He skates himself out of trouble. Positionally, he's in the right spot all the time. I think for him it's just going to be getting NHL reps. He deserves this opportunity. He's just one of those kids that goes to the American Hockey League, cuts his teeth as a pro, and the cream rises to the top."
BACK IN: D Andrej Sustr was back in the lineup, saying being a healthy scratch the previous two games motivated him to get better. Sustr knows he has to do that if he wants to play, considering the competition on defense. "I just have to play a consistent game, so the coaches know what they can get out of me when I get out there," Sustr said.
TOUGH CALL: LW Alex Killorn, who missed Thursday's game with a nagging upper-body injury, returned Saturday. That made for a tough decision for Cooper on who sat, with a group of healthy forwards that has been playing well. RW Erik Condra was scratched. "It's not going to be one of those situations where it's, 'Oh, you're the young guy, you're out,' " Cooper said. "Nobody deserves to come out, but someone has to. Eventually it's going to be, 'Hey, it's your turn.' "
NUTS AND BOLTS: C Mitchell Stephens, the Lightning's top pick in the June draft (33rd overall), broke a foot and is out indefinitely. Stephens had a strong start for Saginaw of the Ontario junior league, with five goals in his first seven games. … The Lightning hosted Ryan Watson, 14, and his family from Spring Hill on Friday as part of the Make-A-Wish-Foundation.