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Lightning’s Erik Cernak again sidelined with injury from blocked shot

Tampa Bay’s top right-shot defenseman missed eight games with a hand injury and now is out with a foot injury.
The Lightning's Erik Cernak skates during the first period of Saturday's game against the Bruins in Boston.
The Lightning's Erik Cernak skates during the first period of Saturday's game against the Bruins in Boston. [ MICHAEL DWYER | AP ]
Published Dec. 5, 2021|Updated Dec. 6, 2021

PHILADELPHIA — Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak is one of the team’s top shot-blockers, especially on the penalty kill, but he’s paying the price for putting his body in the way of some of the league’s top snipers.

Cernak was forced from the Lightning’s 3-2 overtime win Saturday in Boston after he took a blocked shot off his right foot earlier in the game.

Cernak, the Lightning’s top right-shot defenseman, a key minutes-eater and valuable penalty-killer, has taken more than his fair share of hits this season. He didn’t play Sunday in Philadelphia, the ninth game (out of 24) he’s missed this season. He is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to the team.

With the Lightning on the penalty kill with 6:15 left in the first period, Cernak blocked a David Pastrnak slap shot from the left circle with the inside of his right foot.

Cernak did not play again in the period after that shift, but he returned for the second, logging eight shifts in the period before being sidelined for all of the third. He played just 9 minutes, 21 seconds in all.

It was just Cernak’s third game back from another injury caused by a blocked shot on the penalty kill. He missed eight games after leaving a Nov. 9 game against the Hurricanes, when a slap shot from Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov hit him in the hand.

Cernak averaged 20:03 in his two full games back from the hand injury and scored Tuesday in St. Louis before having to leave Saturday’s game prematurely.

The 23-year-old has blossomed into a solid two-way defenseman, improving his offensive game to match his strong play on the defensive end and special teams. Even with the time he’s missed, Cernak is tied with Sergachev for second among the team’s defensemen (behind Victor Hedman) with 34 shots on goal.

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