BRANDON — Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had been largely absent through the first four days of training camp, returned Tuesday following the team’s off day.
Asked about Vasilevskiy’s absence Sunday, coach Jon Cooper said the team’s star goaltender was “wrestling with some things physically,” but added that he wasn’t concerned Vasilevskiy would miss an extended amount of time.
Sure enough, Vasilevskiy took the ice before Tuesday’s non-game group practice and appeared to be testing an injury during his position group work with goaltender coach Frantz Jean. He met with team athletic trainers afterward, then participated in the ensuing practice.
Vasilevskiy, who was not made available to media, switched out with backup goaltender Jonas Johansson during the drills portion of the practice, then opened the 20-minute game scrimmage that followed in net.
“He’s on his own program, so I can’t really talk about that,” Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. “But you know, obviously it’s nice to see him. He was making some saves and working through it, so hopefully he’s going to get better and get back on the ice soon because he’s the best player on our team.”
The Lightning open their seven-game preseason schedule with road games on back-to-back nights tonight in Carolina and Wednesday in Nashville. Vasilevskiy will play no earlier than the fifth preseason game Oct. 3 against the Panthers in Orlando, Cooper said Sunday.
After last season’s first-round playoff loss to Toronto, Vasilevskiy said he didn’t feel in sync with his body after the 30- to 35-game mark in the regular season, when he said small injuries started to creep in. Last week, Vasilevskiy said he felt mentally and physically refreshed from a longer offseason, and he planned to focus more on his recovery this season.
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