The Tampa Bay Lightning announced that star defender Victor Hedman will miss three to six weeks with a lower-body injury.
Injury update: #TBLightning defenseman Victor Hedman will be out 3-6 weeks with a lower body injury. pic.twitter.com/pmZLD8ICsS— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) January 12, 2018
Hedman is the Bolts’ number one defender and his absence will be a huge loss for the Bolts over the next month or so. But given the nature of the injury, this is far from the worst case scenario. It looked to almost certainly be a knee injury of some kind so this timetable is a positive outcome.
Potential Hedman injury here. This does not look great. pic.twitter.com/0M6zfKLNYS— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) January 12, 2018
We’ll bring you more analysis in the coming days of how the Lightning might move forward without one of their stars but a quick look at the lineup shows that they have seven defenders still on the NHL roster and the defensive pairs could look something like:
Mikhail Sergachev - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Dan Girardi
Slater Koekkoek - Jake Dotchin
If the pairing of Sergachev and Stralman does bump up to the top pair, that will present a new test for the Russian rookie. He’s been stellar so far this season but I doubt the team envisioned giving him top-pairing minutes this early in his career. He’ll also likely join the top power-play unit. He’s been great on the second unit so he should excel in that role and did not look out of place when filling in for Hedman on Thursday against Calgary.
The injury also opens a roster spot. The Lightning could use that to call up an eighth defender but another forward seems a more likely option. Both Matthew Peca and Adam Erne have been playing well enough to get a call up, and this injury gives the Bolts the chance to get one or both some NHL minutes.
The Lightning are currently entering their mid-season break. That means that Hedman will really only miss 2-5 weeks of actual hockey as the Bolts won’t play again until next Thursday. With Tampa in first place in the Atlantic and the Eastern Conference by a comfortable margin, they should be able to survive this injury and still make a run at the top seed.
After a horrible season of injuries last year, the Lightning entered this year knowing that health would be a key to getting back into contention. They’ve been fortunate so far. This is their first serious injury of the year and while it’s bad, it isn’t one that should change the course of the season.
The team has a full week to figure out how they’ll approach playing without Hedman. They return to action next Thursday against the Golden Knights. We should get an idea next week in practice on how the team expects to set up their blue line and we’ll find out for sure when they take the ice at home against Vegas.