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Lightning Round: what we know about the injury to Ryan McDonagh and how the Bolts will move forward

The veteran defenseman left the game vs Ottawa in the first and did not return.

NHL: JAN 02 Lightning at Canadiens
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 02: Look on Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Ryan McDonagh (27) during the Tampa Bay Lightning versus the Montreal Canadiens game on January 02, 2020, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC
Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh was forced to leave the game against the OTtawa Senators in the first intermission on Saturday night. After the game, head coach Jon Cooper failed to specify any part of the injury, stating only that McDonagh would be “doubtful” for the Sunday afternoon double header against the Carolina Hurricanes.

There are many speculating the source of McDonagh’s injury, whether it was a high stick early in the period or a high hit by Matthew Tkachuk midway through the frame that forced McDonagh to leave. There was no blood so the injury might be some sort of break or perhaps a concussion. Until the team is back home and McDonagh is looked at more closely by the medical staff will we know.

Joe Smith of The Athletic posted a video on Twitter that is a strong candidate for the act that took McDonagh out of the game. It was a quick, sharp check by Tkachuk into the glass at the start of the Sens first power play. McDonagh didn’t leave the ice after the hit, playing almost the full penalty kill before heading off while his partner, Jan Rutta, did leave for Mikhail Sergachev, who covered the majority of the successful penalty kill.

Looking ahead to McDonagh’s replacement for the next game, it looks like Braydon Coburn will step in to take the vacant spot in the lineup as well as some of the load at even strength and on the penalty kill. His veteran presence and fresh legs will be a big help against Carolina on Sunday.

As for taking on the workload of McDonagh, it looks like that responsibility will fall upon Sergachev and Victor Hedman. Heddy is used to playing in the neighbourhood of 20 minutes per night at even strength throughout his career, as he did in the game on Saturday logging 21:33 at even strength. Including almost four minutes in penalty kill time and a couple minutes on the power play, Hedman skated a total of 28:13 on the front half of a back-to-back.

As for Sergachev, his usage has slowly been going up as the season has gone along. Starting with 17 minutes per game, Sergachev is a solid 20-minute per night player, including power play and penalty kill responsibilities. After McDonagh was only able to skate for 7:52 on Saturday, Sergachev played 20 minutes at even strength, a minute on the powerplay, and almost three minutes on the penalty kill for a grand total of 24:34.

In addition, the fact that Sergachev only played with three different defensemen, none of whom were named Victor or Hedman, means the Lightning can rely on two capable pairings moving forward.

This post from Joe does a good job of explaining Sergachev’s development as a properly-rounded defenseman. Looking at the stats, Sergachev either leads all Bolts defenseman or is right behind his partner, Kevin Shattenkirk, in shot attempts against, expected goals against, and scoring chances against rates.

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