UNIONDALE, N.Y. — After missing six games with an unspecified lower-body injury suffered on Dec. 5, D Victor Hedman participated in a full practice during Tuesday’s morning skate as he eyes a possible return to the lineup later this week.
Hedman leads Tampa Bay Lightning defensemen with six goals and 15 points while averaging 21 minutes of ice time per game. At the time of his injury, Hedman was starting to become more of an offensive threat and was playing as the team’s top defenseman until he was hit into the side boards in the first period against Ottawa.
But after going through a full practice for the first time, participating in all team drills, Hedman has an eye on possibly returning Thursday when Tampa Bay hosts Nashville.
“That would be awesome if I could play then, but I don’t know,’’ Hedman said. “I have to be smart too. I’m not going to go back and risk anything, so I have to make sure that I’m 100 percent. But today felt good, and if nothing happens (Tuesday) or tomorrow, then obviously that’s something that I want to do is play as soon as possible, so we’ll see.’’
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said that while Tampa Bay has been able to manage the blue line in Hedman’s absence, the void is noticeable.
“Take your best defenseman out, a guy that plays 25 minutes a night, that’s almost half the game, and he’s a horse for us back there, so of course we’ve missed him, but you can’t complain,’’ Cooper said. “We have to find a way to win with guys like Hedman and (Steven) Stamkos out.
“Is it ideal? No, but we can’t have any excuses. We have to find a way.’’
Power play woes
Tampa Bay headed into Tuesday in a 6-for-66 streak on the power play in the previous 21 games, though four of those power-play goals came in two games. That means in 19 of those games, the Lightning have scored twice on the power play.
The coaching staff has penciled in power-play drills into nearly every practice, personnel has been rotated and players have been put in different positions, yet there has been no sense of sustaining success with the man advantage.
“You watch us in practice and we look pretty good, like the ’76 Russians,’’ Cooper said.
But that has not translated to the games, at least not since starting the season on a 12-for-50 run in the opening 12 games.
So, for Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, the units were switched around and the difficulties the team has experienced on the power play have been discussed.
“It’s coming, you can feel it,’’ Cooper said. “I think we’ve been getting our chances, and our problem has been getting into the zone, I think that is what has hurt us. So we have a pretty good mindset, we talked about it at length the last couple of days, so I like where our heads are at.’’
RW Teddy Purcell said the team has to be better at moving the puck, concentrate on getting shots to the net and having better puck support when under pressure.
“Teams probably know that our power play has been struggling, they’ve been scouting us and see that we’ve been slipping in the standings that way,’’ he said. “When teams are struggling, you just pounce on the puck and leave guys on an island.
“So we have to do a better job of supporting each other and making those poised plays under pressure.’’
A film crew from Video Art Productions has been following the team during the three-game road trip capturing behind-the-scenes footage of what the team experiences while on the road, from the training staff moving the team from city to city in a back-to-back game situation to some of the travel issues the team experienced traveling through the Northeast.
The footage will be part of an upcoming “Inside the Lightning” special to air on Sun Sports in January.
Nuts and Bolts
LW B.J. Crombeen returned to the lineup after being scratched Sunday in Detroit. ... RW Dana Tyrell and LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie were scratched. ... Tampa Bay is scheduled to practice at noon today in Brandon.