Cup Qualifiers Buzz: Hedman could play in Lightnings round-robin opener

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers Buzz. The 24 teams who will be competing for the Stanley Cup are in their respective hub cities (Toronto for the 12 Eastern Conference teams, Edmonton for the 12 Western Conference teams). The Stanley Cup Qualifiers began Saturday.

Here’s a look around the League at the latest from the Qualifiers:

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Victor Hedman could be in the lineup when the Tampa Bay Lightning play their first game of the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Washington Capitals on Monday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto (4 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV. SN360, TVAS, SUN, NBCSWA)

Hedman, a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL, returned to practice Saturday after arriving in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, on Friday.  

He remained in Tampa last week to tend to a personal issue and participated in individual workouts until he was able to travel.

Forward Steven Stamkos did not practice Saturday and is not expected to play Monday. Stamkos has been recovering from a lower-body injury he aggravated near the end of Phase 2. He was a full participant in practice Friday. 

The Lightning would like to have Stamkos in the lineup for at least one of the three round-robin games, but coach Jon Cooper said it was unlikely he would play Monday.

The Lightning also will play the Boston Bruins (Wednesday) and Philadelphia Flyers (Friday) in the round-robin, which will determine seeding in the East for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: Rupp and Coyle discuss the two Lightning all-stars

Dallas Stars

Tyler Seguin is expected to return to the lineup when the Stars play their first game in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Monday (6:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1, ATTSN-RM, FS-SW).

“[Seguin] finished the practice [on Saturday] and battled hard,” coach Rick Bowness said. “[He] will be full go tomorrow at practice.”

The forward was ruled unfit to play in a 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators in an exhibition game Thursday in Edmonton, the hub city for 12 teams in the Western Conference Qualifiers.

As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.

Seguin was a full participant in all 10 practices during training camp. In the final practice, he and Jamie Benn were reunited on a line, along with rookie Denis Gurianov, and they were expected to skate together in the exhibition game.

Seguin led the Stars with 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) in 69 games this season. He has not missed a game in four seasons.

Forward Andrew Cogliano also is expected to play against the Golden Knights after leaving the exhibition game with an injury. Bowness said Cogliano took part in the first few drills Saturday to “get a feel for it.”

“He’ll be out there tomorrow, and he’ll be a full go on Monday, for sure,” Bowness said.

The Stars also will play the Colorado Avalanche (Wednesday) and St. Louis Blues (Aug. 9) in the round-robin, which will determine seeding in the West for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

Boston Bruins

Tuukka Rask will not play for the Bruins against the Philadelphia Flyers in the round-robin portion of the Qualifiers at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS). The goalie missed practice Saturday because he was not feeling well.

Jaroslav Halak will start against Philadelphia, with Dan Vladar backing up.

“Tuukka is feeling better, but again, unfit to participate,” coach Bruce Cassidy said Sunday. “Hopefully he’s back on the ice as soon as tomorrow.”

The Bruins intended to start Rask against the Flyers; Boston also plays the Tampa Bay Lightning (Wednesday) and Washington Capitals (Aug. 9) in the round-robin, which will determine seeding for the playoffs in the East.

Rask, 26-8-6 this season with a 2.12 goals-against-average and .929 save percentage in 41 starts, is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the NHL. Halak, who Cassidy previously had said would see time during the round-robin games, was 18-6-6 with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage in 31 games (29 starts).

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