For video of the hit and a breakdown of the play, check out Justin’s article from last night during the game.
As of yet, NHL Player Safety has not weighed in on the hit and with it being this late in the day, it seems unlikely they will. That’s somewhat surprising considering how reckless the hit was. McDonagh wasn’t involved in the play when Eichel checked him from behind and sent the defender face first into the boards. While the question of whether the hit was worthy of a suspension is up for debate, it seemed to be worth a fine at the least.
For the Lightning, McDonagh is the latest in a list of Lightning players suffering from injuries. Anton Stralman is already out of the lineup and Dan Girardi left the game last night after a knee on knee hit from Tage Thompson but did return shortly thereafter.
With Stralman and McDonagh out for at least the immediate future, that leaves the Lightning without their shutdown pair for more than likely the next three games and possibly longer. Slater Koekkoek will almost certainly draw into the lineup as the Lightning only have six healthy defenders on the roster.
The injury will also likely necessitate the recall of Cameron Gaunce from Syracuse to serve as the seventh defender. That will leave Syracuse without Gaunce and Erik Cernak, which puts them in a difficult spot on defense.
For the Lightning, they’ll have to get creative with their pairings. Cernak had been playing almost exclusively with McDonagh. In practice today, Cernak took shifts on the second pair with Koekkoek. The other two pairs stayed the same. So that gives us:
Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Slater Koekkoek - Erik Cernak
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev
We’ll see if that’s what the coaches run during the game. That second pair seems risky with two young players including Koekkoek who hasn’t done much to earn the coaches’ trust with his play over the last two seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them give Coburn and Sergachev the second-pair minutes and swap Girardi and Cernak at times. The rookie has shown he can hold his own with a top partner and limiting Koekkoek and Girardi’s minutes seems like a better option than relying on them in the top four.
Whatever happens, this group is quite some distance away from how the blue line looks with the team healthy. And with Louis Domingue still in net due to the injury to Andrei Vasilevskiy, keeping the opposition off the scoreboard could start to become an issue if McDonagh doesn’t return to the lineup quickly.
Also in practice today, Adam Erne remained out due to an illness and Ryan Callahan was out to received an unspecified treatment.
Erne is sick and Callahan is receiving treatment. Both not on the ice at #Bolts practice.— Caley Chelios (@CaleyChelios) November 30, 2018
If both of them aren’t ready to go tomorrow, that would mean that Danick Martel would draw into the lineup and possibly necessitate another forward recall from Syracuse.
None of the injuries to Lightning players so far this season have been serious aside from Vasilevskiy’s but they are starting to pile up an uncomfortable rate. The team hasn’t been able to ice its full roster at any point over the last few weeks and while the team has been successful despite that, the pressure on the depth to pick up so many minutes will start have an effect.