In last week’s PHT Extra we mentioned the beleaguered state of Tampa Bay’s defense, which had seen the likes of Victor Hedman, Braydon Coburn, Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr all go down to injury.
Today, the Lightning received some good news on that front:
Hedman said he felt good to get back on ice and, depending how he feels in next day or two, should be able to play Thursday. #TBLightning
— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) April 7, 2015
Sustr said he hopes to return to practice before the end of the weekend, perhaps play in one of the final 2 games
— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) April 7, 2015
Coburn’s been out since Mar. 10 with a lower-body injury while Hedman’s missed the last three games with a lower-body ailment as well (Sustr’s been out since Mar. 28). The Bolts also got decent news on Garrison, who was ruled out 3-4 weeks on Mar. 30 but skated before practice this morning.
All of this bodes well for the Lightning, who’ve been operating with a patchwork defense lately — not coincidentally, they’ve lost four of their last six.
Case in point: During Saturday’s 4-0 win over Florida, the club rolled with a six-man unit of Anton Stralman, Matt Carle, Nikita Nesterov, Luke Witkowski, Mark Barberio and Slater Koekkoek; Nesterov played 20-plus minutes for just the second time in his career and Koekkoek played just over 16 in his third-ever NHL contest.
The Bolts can still mathematically catch Montreal for top spot in the Atlantic Division but, trailing by two points with two games left, are probably going to finish second and face either Boston or Detroit in the opening playoff round. If the likes of Hedman, Coburn and Sustr are ready for Game 1, it’s going to make life a lot more difficult for the Bruins or Red Wings.