When the Lightning finish their three-game, four-day road trip tonight in Winnipeg, they will be without their top defenseman.
Victor Hedman left the team to return to Tampa to be with his wife for the expected birth of the couple’s second child, the team announced this morning.
“Everybody’s excited for him,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters following the team’s morning skate. “He was excited when he left. All the guys were (giving him) high-fives and hugs on the way out. So, we’ll see him here in a day, and hopefully we’ll get a win for him.”
Hedman leads all Lightning skaters with an average ice time of 24:14 and paces the team’s defenseman with 24 assists. He has just one goal this season, having gone 26 games without a goal, but has five assists over his last three games and 13 over his last 10.
Mikhail Sergachev likely will move into a top-pair position on the left side and quarterback the top power-play unit, a duty Sergachev briefly took from Hedman earlier this season.
Hedman’s first child, a son he and his wife Sanna named Rio, was born on Oct. 14, 2020, just two weeks after the Lightning won the first of back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, with Hedman earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Hedman’s absence likely will mean that left-shot defenseman Haydn Fleury will draw into the lineup. The Lightning also will be without defenseman Zach Bogosian, who “got dinged up a couple games ago,” Cooper said.
Bogosian last played Tuesday in Chicago, skating 12:46 in a 4-1 win over the Blackhawks. He did not play Wednesday in Minnesota, replaced by right-shot defenseman Cal Foote, who likely will play again tonight with Bogosian (considered day-to-day) unavailable.
While goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy took part in this morning’s skate in Winnipeg and is feeling better after missing Wednesday’s game with an illness, Cooper said he would be a game-time decision. Vasilevskiy was slated to start against the Wild but looked tired and lethargic in pregame warmups, and Brian Elliott started on back-to-back nights for the first time since 2017.
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