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Andrei Vasilevskiy likely ready to return to Tampa Bay Lightning lineup

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The Lightning sent Eddie Pasquale back to Syracuse without recalling another goalie

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

This afternoon, the Lightning announced that Eddie Pasquale has been sent back to the Syracuse Crunch indicating that starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is likely ready to return to the lineup.

If that’s the case, that’s a big deal. Vasilevskiy was expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a broken foot. This week is officially the four-week mark so this is the best case scenario in terms of recovery time.

So far during Vasilevskiy’s absence, Louis Domingue has started all but one of the fifteen games. The Lightning have only lost three games during that time with Domingue picking up eleven of the wins and Pasquale grabbing the other in his only start. Domingue has been especially good recently, earning the second star of the week from the NHL for his recent play.

Vasilevskiy’s return will allow Domingue to slide back into his backup role and give the Lightning a solid tandem in net. While they have been winning games, they’ve had to rely on their offense to outscore teams at times and the return of Vasilevskiy should put them in that position less often.

Prior to the injury, Vasilevskiy was off to one of the best starts among goaltenders in the NHL. He was among the leaders in goals saved above expected in all situations. If he can get back to that level of play and the Lightning can continue at the pace they’re on offensively, the team could go on a run.

The Bolts play their next game on Thursday at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are currently in second place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference behind the Lightning. They boast one of the best offenses in the game with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and the recently re-signed William Nylander.

That would be quite a game for Vasilevskiy to make his return. But if not, he could come back Sunday against another powerhouse in the Winnipeg Jets or next Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks.

We likely won’t know who will start on Thursday until gameday. The Lightning tend to stay quiet about things like this until the last minute. If he does make his return on Thursday, that will add another layer to an already exciting matchup.

Whenever he makes his return, it will be a big boost for a team already playing well as they look to build momentum heading into the second half of the season.