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Ryan McDonagh leaves game after hit from Jack Eichel

A check from behind knocked the Lightning defender out of the game.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With eight minutes left in the first period in Thursday’s night game against the Buffalo Sabres, Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh left the game after being driven into the boards by Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and did not return to the game.

The Lightning were killing a penalty when the puck found itself in the corner. McDonagh was on the perimeter of the play and a few feet from the boards when Eichel checked him from behind. The momentum from the shove caused the defender to fall awkwardly into the boards and he was slow to get back to his skates as a scrum developed around him. The 29-year-old defender was able to get up under his own power, but skated to the bench and immediately went to the trainer’s room. Eichel was assessed a minor boarding penalty on the play.

The Lightning are already short a defenseman as Anton Stralman remains out with an undisclosed upper body ailment. He’s already missed nine games and will be out for the immediate future. Tampa placed him on the injured reserve list earlier in the day.

McDonagh has been one of the most reliable defenders for the Lightning this season, and filled a huge void when Victor Hedman missed a few games earlier in the season. Should his miss any length of time, it could be an opportunity for Slater Koekkoek to re-enter the line-up. The Lightning could also opt to recall Cameron Gaunce from Syracuse. Gaunce, who has 32 games of NHL experience, spent a few games with the Lightning earlier this season during Hedman’s injury.

Dan Girardi missed a few shifts just prior to McDonagh’s injury due to a knee-on-knee hit from Tage Thompson.

Raw Charge will update the story as new information develops.