Lightning center Tyler Johnson closing in on return

Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson is on the mend after sustaining an injury against the Philadelphia Flyers last Monday.

Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning are likely to see center Tyler Johnson return sooner than defenseman Victor Hedman.

On Thursday, coach Jon Cooper said Johnson could come back before the All-Star break, which begins after Tampa Bay hosts the Vancouver Canucks next Tuesday at Amalie Arena. Both Johnson and Hedman sustained lower-body injuries in a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers last Monday and are considered day-to-day.

Johnson, 24, took part in morning skate Thursday in a no-contact red jersey. Hedman, who is more likely to return after the All-Star break, was not seen.

"Very encouraging," Cooper said of Johnson at the morning skate, before Tampa Bay hosts the Edmonton Oilers at Amalie Arena later Thursday. "Tough kid. He’s a lot closer than 77. It’s better to have one closer than the other instead of having both not close."

Johnson, who was named to his first All-Star Game last Saturday, said he’s unsure how his injury will affect his potential participation in the event, to be held on Jan. 25 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. He said he’s focused on returning for Tampa Bay’s benefit.

"I’m trying to feel better for the team," Johnson said.

"Whatever happens, happens. Whatever is going to be in the best interest of myself and the team, that’s what I’m going to do."

Johnson and Hedman are crucial parts in the Lightning’s attempt to preserve their place near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Johnson has a team-high 46 points and 29 assists. Hedman, meanwhile, has 20 points and is considered one of the Lightning’s top defensemen at age 24.

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