For the third season in a row, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman’s health is a postseason issue.
He missed part of the Lightning’s stunning four-sweep sweep by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019. He was hurt in the 2020 round robin finale but returned for Game 1 of the playoffs and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Now, he has missed the final two regular-season games with a lower-body injury, creating concern for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Without Hedman and other injured players in the Lightning lineup, the Florida Panthers beat them twice to gain home-ice advantage in their first-round series.
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Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman missed the final two regular-season games with a lower body injury.
The Lightning will get back high-scoring forwards Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos for the playoffs, but Hedman being out or less than 100% will hurt against a Panthers team that has won six in a row.
Which other teams are showing potentially troubling signs heading into the playoffs?
New York Islanders
They have not beaten a current playoff team since a 1-0 victory against the Washington Capitals on April 6. That tied them for first place in the East Division and they aggressively acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac the next day from the New Jersey Devils. But they have dropped to fourth place, with Palmieri getting two goals and two assists in 17 games and Zajac one goal and one assist in 13 games. They miss the leadership of captain Anders Lee, who’s done for the season. They had a scare Monday when goalie Semyon Varlamov didn’t play in the third period, but coach Barry Trotz said it was a minor strain that wouldn’t have kept him out of a playoff game.
The Jets are in a free fall, going 1-9 since April 15. That includes going 0-5 and being outscored 21-6 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers. They will face one of those teams in the first round. Forward Nikolaj Ehlers is on pace to be back for the playoffs, but he won’t solve all of their woes. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck has had sub-.900 save percentages in six of his last 10 games.
Captain Alex Ovechkin played one shift in the last eight games. Forward Evgeny Kuznetsov and goalie Ilya Samsonov are in COVID-19 protocol for a second time. T.J. Oshie was hurt in his last game. John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom also missed a recent game with injury. Ovechkin, Carlson and Backstrom practiced Monday. The good news is they have been finding ways to win, but they’ll need all of those players against a Boston Bruins team that has found scoring depth after acquiring Taylor Hall at the deadline.
St. Louis Blues
The 2019 champions have been wildly inconsistent as they deal with injuries. Which team shows up? The one that has two winning streaks of three games or more since April 7 or the one that has two three-game losing streaks. If the fourth-place Blues face the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round, they have lost six of their last seven meetings, including some blowouts.
The Canadiens clinched the NHL’s final playoff spot on Monday, but they backed in, going 0-3-1. They expect to get Carey Price (concussion) and Brendan Gallagher (broken thumb) back for the playoffs. They still have a chance to move up to third place and avoid a meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have won seven of their 10 meetings.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL playoffs: Hedman, Lightning among teams showing troubling signs
Published: 2021-05-11 13:53:02
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