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Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh out against Canucks, return unclear

After leaving Saturday’s game following a hit to the head, the veteran is expected to miss at least two more games.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) before a game against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 12. [CHRIS O'MEARA | AP]

TAMPA — Veteran Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh will miss tonight’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks and isn’t expected to return from an upper-body injury until Saturday at the earliest.

McDonagh left last Saturday’s game in Ottawa in the first period after taking an inadvertent elbow to the head. He missed Sunday’s game in Carolina and wasn’t on the ice during Tuesday’s morning skate.

Related: Best part of back-to-back Lightning games in Ottawa and Carolina? They’re over

Lightning coach Jon Cooper was hesitant to offer a prognosis on McDonagh, but said he didn’t anticipate a return during the team’s current two-game homestand. The Lightning host Arizona on Thursday, then have road games in Philadelphia and New Jersey on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

"He's clearly an important player for us," Cooper said. "I can sit here and say I don't anticipate him playing in these two games at home. And then when we go on the road hopefully here, we can get him back."

McDonagh is second among Lightning defensemen with 20:53 of average on-ice time, and he leads the team with 80 blocked shots.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard.