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Lightning get Erik Cernak back without the defenseman missing a game

Cernak was hurt in Saturday’s game against Arizona and it looked bad, but the Lightning got lucky.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) in the third period overtime of an NHL hockey game Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, in Denver. The Lightning won 4-3 in overtime.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) in the third period overtime of an NHL hockey game Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, in Denver. The Lightning won 4-3 in overtime. [ DAVID ZALUBOWSKI | AP ]
Published Feb. 25, 2020
Updated Feb. 26, 2020

TAMPA — Not only did the Lightning get defensive reinforcements, but they also got one of their top blueliners back. Erik Cernak played in Tuesday’s game against Toronto.

Cernak was hurt in Saturday’s loss to Arizona, leaving the game in the second period. At the time, the injury was cringe-worthy and looked like something that could keep him out a little while. Left wing Taylor Hall fell on the back of Cernak’s leg, collapsing his knee.

“There’s no question” the Lightning dodged a bullet on Cernak’s injury, coach Jon Cooper said. “We can ill afford to lose more guys on the back end, so we’re pretty fortunate there."

When Cernak got hurt, the Lightning were missing three defensemen from the team’s top two pairs.

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The Lightning are still missing Jan Rutta, who slid into the boards legs first on Feb 4, and Ryan McDonagh, who blocked a shot by Evgeni Malkin on Feb. 6. Neither one skated with the team Tuesday morning, though they both participated in Saturday’s optional session.

McDonagh could return in the next 10 to 14 days, which would fall in a stretch of six consecutive Atlantic Division games. General manager Julien BriseBois said Rutta probably needs another two to three weeks.

The Lightning signed Zach Bogosian on Sunday, providing depth among the defensemen. He made his debut with the team on Tuesday.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.