TAMPA — Lightning forward Tanner Jeannot wasn’t expected to play in Tuesday night’s first-round series opener in Toronto. And from the looks of his right leg injury two weeks ago in Long Island, the idea of him playing in the series at all seemed optimistic.
But before the Lightning traveled to Toronto on Monday, Jeannot was back on the ice during the team’s final postseason preparation practice.
He wasn’t a full participant, jumping in rush lines throughout practice, but just the sight of him participating was a welcome — and somewhat surprising — sight for the Lightning, who acquired Jeannot at the trade deadline to make the team tougher to play against in the postseason.
“We were anticipating this was going to happen at some point, but definitely not this early,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of Jeannot’s return. “So we’ll see what happens here. He’s definitely not going in Game 1, but what went from week-to-week has definitely been trimmed down to day-to-day.”
It was Jeannot’s first on-ice team exercise since he twisted his right leg under his own weight and that of Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield after Mayfield ran him into the side boards in a April 6 game. Jeannot needed help getting back to his feet and off the ice.
“That was really scary, but we’ve seen him doing his work and it’s been impressive, so it’s a great time to see him,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “That’s for sure.”
The Lightning acquired the 25-year-old forward to help add physicality and toughness to the lineup. His injury came just 20 games into his stint with the Lightning, and he was beginning to come into his own with his new team.
In the four games before his injury, Jeannot had 11 scoring chances, and he notched 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.
Jeannot was acquired 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. He is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent, but can remain under team control for the next two seasons.
“You want to have your full arsenal, but he’s a really well-liked teammate,” Cooper said. “I mean, they all are, but he has gone through a lot here with the trade and the change and then he has a really nasty injury. So guys are pretty pumped to see him on the ice.”
Asked whether Jeannot received any treatment to help accelerate this recovery, Cooper pointed to the Oxbow, Saskatchewan, native’s “Western Canadian genes.”
Where Jeannot would slot in when he returns is unclear. During Monday’s practice, Jeannot jumped in on the line of Brandon Hagel, Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn, but that unit has developed strong chemistry as a lockdown line, particularly during last season’s playoffs.
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Mikey Eyssimont, who drew in for Jeannot after his injury, continued to skate with Ross Colton and Nick Paul, but Eyssimont’s spot would be the most likely place for Jeannot to draw in.
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