Lightning’s Hedman on pace to return vs. Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Tampa Bay Lightning welcomed back a core piece of their lineup on Friday. The Arizona Coyotes welcomed a new piece that they hope will become a part of their core.
Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman took part in a full practice on Friday at Gila River Arena and could return to the lineup on Saturday against the Coyotes. Hedman, a Norris Trophy candidate with 38 points (second among NHL defensemen), has missed the last three games with an undisclosed illness.
When asked after practice if he’d would play against Arizona, both Lightning coach Jon Cooper and Hedman were noncommittal.
“We’ll see,” said Hedman, who admitted he’s feeling better.
Arizona recalled right winger Christian Fischer from Tucson of the American Hockey League on Friday.
Fischer, the team’s second-round pick in 2016 (32nd overall), has been on a tear lately with the Roadrunners. He leads that team in goals with 16 and is second in points to center Chris Mueller (35) with 32. Fischer was named to the Pacific Division team for the upcoming AHL All-Star Classic and was named the AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Jan. 15, with three goals and seven points that week.
“I’ve proven that I can withstand this level of hockey,” Fischer said. “Every game, I’m making a difference, whether it be getting a point or just on the PK blocking a shot.”
Fischer will make his NHL debut against Tampa Bay, replacing right winger Anthony Duclair in the Coyotes’ lineup. Arizona assigned Duclair and center Laurent Dauphin to Tucson this week. Duclair is mired in a season-long scoring slump after scoring 20 goals last season as a rookie. He has just three this season.
“Anthony is a good young player,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said. “Unfortunately, he has struggled this season. We felt this was a good time to send him to Tucson to work on a few things and hopefully regain his scoring touch. We hope to have him rejoin our team soon.”
The Coyotes are still without the services of left winger Max Domi until after the All-Star break as he recovers from a broken bone in his right hand.
Center Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) is out of his cast but the team still has not set a timeline for his return.
Center Martin Hanzal missed his second straight game on Thursday in Minnesota to attend to a family matter, but he’s expected back in the lineup against Tampa Bay. Mike Smith is expected to start in goal for Arizona.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos (knee surgery) is out at least until March, center Brayden Point (upper body) is out until February, right winger Ryan Callahan (upper body) is out two more weeks and right winger J.T. Brown (upper body) is day to day.
Cooper did not announce who would start in goal for Tampa between Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy got the nod in the team’s last game in San Jose on Thursday, but he has lost six straight starts.