The Tampa Bay Lightning’s stretch without Victor Hedman may wind up being just a single game.
Tampa Bay assigned defenseman Slater Koekkoek to Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Sunday, raising speculation that Hedman would return to the lineup Tuesday against the Nashville Predators after missing one contest with an upper-body injury.
Koekkoek was recalled from the Crunch on Friday, one day after Hedman took a shoulder to the chest from Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn in the second period and banged his head off the glass as a result. The 24-year-old Hedman exited the Lightning’s loss to the Stars after the incident but was feeling much better the following day, although he sat out Tampa Bay’s 2-1 home victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
Taking his place in the lineup was Koekkoek, who blocked a shot and registered a hit while posting a minus-1 rating over 10 minutes, 21 seconds of ice time in his season debut. The 21-year-old got his first taste of the NHL last campaign, when he appeared in three contests without recording a point.
Selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Koekkoek spent the next two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League before making his professional debut with Syracuse on October 12, 2014. The native of Winchester, Ontario notched five goals and 21 assists in 72 regular-season games with the Crunch before adding an assist in three playoff contests.
Koekkoek appeared in one game with Syracuse this season before his recall.
Hedman has recorded four assists and a plus-5 rating in five games this campaign. A native of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden who was the second overall pick in 2009, he has collected 39 goals and 147 assists in 397 career contests with the Lightning.