Lightning hopeful Hedman will be back for playoffs

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The most important thing for the Tampa Bay Lightning over the next week is keeping their best players healthy and getting them ready for the start of the playoffs.

Or in the case of top defender Victor Hedman, hoping their top players get healthy and are ready to play in the playoffs.

Hedman had to leave Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals with what the team called an “upper-body injury,” and according to coach Jon Cooper it is doubtful that he will he play again during the rest of the regular season. Cooper, via Joe Smith of The Athletic, declined to comment on whether or not Hedman is dealing with a concussion. According to Smith, the team is hopeful Hedman will be ready for the start of the playoffs.

Hedman was injured when he collided with Capitals forward Carl Hagelin during the Lightning’s 6-3 loss, resulting in Hagelin’s helmet catching him in the chin.

The Lightning have four games remaining this week, all on the road, including Monday’s game against the Ottawa Senators.

Having already clinched the Atlantic Division, the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record the Lightning have nothing to play for in the standings, so being without Hedman for this week won’t be a huge concern in the short-term.

[Related: Lightning’s Hedman leaves game with ‘upper-body injury’]

The concern is if it carries over into the playoffs.

Hedman, the reigning Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defender, has been just as dominant in 2018-19 and is currently the team’s fourth-leading scorer with 54 points in only 70 games while still playing shutdown defense.

The Lightning have also been without defenders Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi, but Stralman is expected to return to the lineup on the current road trip.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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