The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without defenseman Victor Hedman on Thursday against Pittsburgh — and the club isn’t sure when he’ll be back.
Hedman, 22, hasn’t been on the ice since suffering an undisclosed lower-body injury during last Thursday’s 5-0 shellacking of Carolina, according to the Tampa Tribune.
Lightning head coach John Cooper has already ruled him out for Thursday’s game, and it doesn’t appear a timetable has been set for Hedman’s return.
The Swedish rearguard has been one of the consistent bright spots for the Lightning this year, remaining mostly healthy and playing well in a season where injuries and spotty play have derailed the Bolts.
He sits second among all defensemen in points (16) and time on ice per game (22.22), and is third on the team with a plus-eight rating.
More importantly, he’d been healthy prior to this latest injury setback.
The team has been decimated this year by ailments to Vincent Lecavalier (missed nine games), Ryan Malone (missed 22) and goalie Anders Lindback (still out with an ankle sprain).
Those injuries played a big part in the Bolts getting off to a 13-18-1 start under Guy Boucher, who was fired in late March.
The team has since played well under new bench boss Cooper — posting a 4-2-1 record — and still finds itself mathematically alive in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Tampa Bay has nine games left in the season and is six points back of the eighth-place Rangers, but does have a tough road ahead. The Lightning play four of their next five on the road, and have a woeful 6-13-0 road record this season.