Lightning could be without two top defencemen against Leafs tomorrow

Apr 19 2023, 4:30 pm

After losing 7-3 in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs may be in for a new-look opponent in Game 2.

Tuesday night’s dominant performance was bittersweet for the Lightning, which started the game with six healthy defencemen, but finished it without Erik Cernak and five-time Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman.

Hedman was hurt early in the game, playing just six and a half minutes before he was seen nursing a lower-body injury. Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper said Hedman’s injury “was a little surprising” and they are hopeful that he’ll be able to go for Game 2 but it’s too early to say for sure.

Then, Cernak was leveled by a hit to the head from Toronto forward Michael Bunting towards the end of the second period after logging 9:27 of ice time. Bunting received a five-minute major and was ejected from the game. He faces a potential suspension, with a hearing coming later today.

“I will give you the company line. The league will look at that. To me, it seems to check a whole bunch of boxes,” Cooper added about the hit.

Both Cernak and Hedman were not on the ice for Wednesday’s team practice. Cooper later confirmed that Cernak and Michael Eysimmont would not dress for Game 2. Meanwhile, Hedman remains a game-time decision.

If two of Tampa’s key blueliners are slow to return, the Lightning will have some big skates to fill for the rest of the series.

“As the coach, you always want the best, but deep down inside, you know there are a whole bunch of gamers in that room. On this night, we knew they would come out to play,” Cooper added.

Game 2 of the series is set for Thursday night, where the Leafs once again host the Lightning for a 7:30 ET puck drop.

Al SciolaAl Sciola

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