Tampa Bay's top defenseman was a game-time decision for Saturday's tilt after missing Game 2 and the final two periods of Game 1 with an undisclosed injury. Hedman was hurt at some point during the opening frame of Tampa's 7-3 victory in Game 1. He tried to return for Game 2 but after conferring with the Lightning training staff Hedman determined he wasn't ready to go.
At Saturday's morning skate, Hedman was in a regular spot in the Lightning rotation next to rookie Nick Perbix. That was a good sign Hedman was preparing to jump back in, yet Tampa coach Jon Cooper cautioned Hedman would take warmup before Game 3 prior to a final decision being made.
Having Hedman in the mix should be a major boost for the Lightning. Not only is he a minute-munching defenseman who contributes in all three phases, but Tampa Bay hasn't won a playoff game without Hedman dressed since they drafted him in 2009. That pattern continued in the Lightning's ugly 7-2 loss to Toronto in Game 2, pulling the series even before it shifted to Tampa Bay's home ice.
Even with Hedman though, the Lightning blueline won't be at full strength. Erik Cernak remains sidelined after taking an elbow to the head from Leafs' forward Michael Bunting in Game 1. Bunting was suspended three games for an illegal check to the head and interference against Cernak.