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Lightning’s Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta return to full practice

Alex Killorn observed McDonagh may be stronger than ever after battling in practice.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) looks on before a face off against the Vegas Golden Knights during second period action at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) looks on before a face off against the Vegas Golden Knights during second period action at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 4. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Mar. 3, 2020
Updated Mar. 4, 2020

TAMPA — Injured defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta participated in Wednesday’s practice and Tuesday’s morning skate. They have skated in optional sessions like Tuesday’s before, but this is the first full practice and consecutive sessions for either.

“It’s part of the progression,” coach Jon Cooper said Tuesday. “It’s still early but it’s good to have them out on the ice.”

McDonagh was back in regular defenseman black and participated in all the drills, while Rutta sported a non-contact red practice jersey and skated on his own for some of the time on Wednesday.

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That distinction is also part of why it’s encouraging to see McDonagh get into a full practice vs. just an optional skate. The latter features more individual skills, not team structure and less physical battling. Practice is a better indication of where they are.

“I battled with him in the corner and it seems like he’s stronger than ever,” Alex Killorn said.

Cooper isn’t as much worried about the conditioning part of their recovery — by now they should be fine skating wise — but it’s more about getting banged around again with “battle drills” in practice.

He was uable to offer an updated timeline for either McDonagh or Rutta, other than McDonagh is closer.

McDonagh has missed 12 games since blocking a shot from Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin on Feb. 6. Rutta has been out 13, since awkwardly crashing into the boards (legs first) against Vegas on Feb. 4.