BRANDON — The Lightning are expected to be without forward Tanner Jeannot when the postseason begins next week, but coach Jon Cooper hasn’t ruled him out for the entirety of the playoffs.
Cooper said Monday that he’s hopeful Jeannot, the team’s top trade-deadline acquisition this year, can be available at some point during the upcoming first-round series against the Maple Leafs. When the Lightning returned to practice Monday morning at the TGH IcePlex, following their winless three-game road trip, Jeannot was the only player missing on the ice.
Jeannot sustained an apparent right leg injury in a 6-1 loss to the Islanders on Thursday night.
”You’d have to sit here and say he’s more than day-to-day,” Cooper said Monday. “Hopefully, he’ll be back here at some point in the playoffs, but he’s definitely not going to start with us in the playoffs.”
Asked whether Jeannot is expected to miss all of the first round, Cooper said, “I don’t want to say that, but I don’t expect him to play in Game 1.”
Jeannot fell back and his leg bent awkwardly as Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield rode him against the boards. Jeannot needed help to his feet, off the ice and down the tunnel.
The Lightning have two games remaining in the regular season, including Tuesday’s home meeting with the Leafs at Amalie Arena — a prelude to the first-round playoff rematch with Toronto that is expected to begin next Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena. Last season, the Lightning eliminated the Leafs in the first round, coming back from a 3-2 series deficit to claim a winner-take-all Game 7 in Toronto.
With Jeannot likely out for the beginning of the Leafs series, forward Mikey Eyssimont, another trade deadline acquisition, will draw in as the 12th forward in the postseason. In Monday’s practice, Eyssimont skated on the Lightning’s third line with Ross Colton and Anthony Cirelli.
“It obviously stinks,” Colton said of Jeannot’s absence. “He was a big part of this team. We got him for a reason. He’s a great player, a great teammate, a great guy in the locker room, so it’s unfortunate. It sucks, but we’ve got good guys in here who kind of have that next step mentality. So someone else is gonna have to step up and fill the role.”
At the time of his injury, Jeannot was starting to come into his own as a the physical force the Lightning saw when they acquired him from the Predators on Feb. 26 in exchange for a first-round pick in 2025, a second-round pick in 2024 and third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks this season, as well as defenseman Cal Foote.
In the four games before his injury, Jeannot had 11 scoring chances, and he scored his first goal with the Lightning in a home win over the Islanders on April 1. He also had 26 hits in his last six games, including an eight-hit game against the Capitals on March 30.
Without Jeannot, the Lightning will have 12 forwards and seven defensemen available for Tuesday’s game. Because they don’t have enough cap space to call up another forward from AHL Syracuse on their own, they would have to play one game shorthanded before being eligible for an emergency exemption callup, which would not count against the cap.
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Once the playoffs start, the salary cap is not in play, and the Lightning could make up to three callups in the postseason. The four-recall rule would still be in effect, and the team used one on defenseman Darren Raddysh.
The Lightning gave up a huge bounty to acquire Jeannot, who is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent after this season. The Lightning retain his rights for the next two seasons. The team must make him an $892,500 qualifying offer in the offseason to retain him.
Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who didn’t play against Ottawa on Saturday, was back on the ice Monday after returning early from the road trip to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
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